Audiences across the Saanich Peninsula are mourning Jim Ramsay, who played at senior facilities across the region. He died on Jan. 20 of natural causes. (Linda Michaluk/Submitted)

Audiences across the Saanich Peninsula are mourning Jim Ramsay, who played at senior facilities across the region. He died on Jan. 20 of natural causes. (Linda Michaluk/Submitted)

Saanich Peninsula mourns Piano Man Jim Ramsay

Ramsay played to audiences across region for the sheer joy of it

Residents across the Saanich Peninsula and beyond are mourning the death of Jim Ramsay, whom many knew as the Piano Man for his many volunteer performances at Saanich Peninsula Hospital and other facilities.

Born March 30, 1932 in Scotland, Ramsay, a North Saanich resident since 1990, had emigrated to Canada in the early 1950s to Canada to join the Royal Bank of Canada, where he worked until retirement in 1988. He died on Jan. 20 of natural causes.

Ramsay played piano for the late mother of Kathleen McMullin, while she was at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. “My mother always looked forward to his visits, as did the other residents,” said McMullin. “He lifted their spirits with the lively songs of their youth, which many of them sang along to as he played.” Ramsay also played at other facilities including Sidney’s SHOAL Centre for Seniors.

“At one point, he was playing three or four times a week at various facilities on the Peninsula,” said Linda Michaluk, Ramsay’s daughter. While people thanked her dad after playing, he said he thought he got more out of playing than the people he was playing for, she said.

“He really enjoyed making people happy and understood the value and importance of music for people,” said Michaluk. “Often people, who were not really able to put together a lot of memories day-to-day would just come alive when they heard from their youth or meant something for them. And dad would watch for that kind of thing and try to play those songs.”

Ramsay’s death has left a hole, said Lisa Davidson, a rehab assistant in long-term care at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. “The residents miss him,” she said. “We miss him. He was just a very nice gentleman.”

Davidson said Ramsay had been playing at the unit for years, coming twice a month. “When he came, there were probably 60 people. The dining room would be full. We would have to move all the tables and the chairs for the wheelchairs to come in. He was always a favourite.”

RELATED: VIDEO: B.C. singer creates frontline workers tribute song

Davidson said audiences loved Ramsay. “They looked forward to him. He was super nice. People would request songs and he would know them,” she said.

In fact, audiences did not necessarily have to know the titles of songs for Ramsay to play. “If you didn’t know the song, if you hummed a few bars, he would pretty much catch on to it and know it,” said Davidson. “Nine times out of 10, he would know and play it.”

Michaluk said her dad did not have a favourite song. “Music was his favourite song,” she said, adding that he had received absolutely no training. “He was a natural musician. He had had occasion to play with several people in the jazz field, Roy Reynolds for one. He even had occasion through his time at the bank to meet Oscar Peterson and enjoyed some home-style playing with Oscar Peterson. When he came to Calgary, he would stay at my dad.”

He was such a favourite of McMullin’s mother that she invited him to play at her mother’s memorial in 2016. “(He) played much of the music of her youth and he was a person my mother so enjoyed in her last years,” said McMullin, who wants the public to remember Ramsay as someone who always wanted to help others.

RELATED: North Saanich jazz singer and pianist scores PBS special

“There are people in our community who give of themselves freely and provide others with a valuable service or with some level of personal joy,” said McMullin. “I feel these people should be acknowledged and remembered. Jim Ramsey was one of those people.”

Comments like McMullin’s and Davidson’s abound in the comments sections on Ramsay’s online obituary, with friends, neighbours and family sharing memories.

Shona Fallon, who identifies herself as a cousin, remembers playing the ukulele with him while he played the piano during the Second World War. “We had to wear gas masks sometimes,” her comment reads. “He played by ear and was so gifted then and until he died. He was my favourite cousin and I will miss our phone conversations. Will hoist a wee dram Jim when I play your CD.”


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Just Posted

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Neighbours have reached out to media on several occasions with complaints about the property

Darcy Rhodes (left) says his grandfather’s bonsai trees are his ‘babies.’ (Courtesy of Tamara Bond)
Construction takes place on Bamfield Main in early February 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS)
Ongoing Bamfield roadwork unrelated to planned $30M fix

Construction by Mosaic unrelated to $30M upgrade ordered in wake of fatal bus crash

Protestors against old growth logging gather in front of the courthouse in Victoria on Thursday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fairy Creek protesters gather at Victoria courthouse

Logging company seeks injunction to remove blockades near its Port Renfrew operation

One person is dead after a camper van caught fire Thursday morning in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
UPDATED: One person dead after vehicle fire in Beacon Hill Park

Investigation into Victoria death in early stages

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Clockwise from top left: Malahat First Nation Chief George Harry and councillors Steve Henry and Cindy Harry address community members in a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Screenshot)
Malahat Nation confirms first two cases of COVID-19

Community has been under stay-at-home order since Jan. 7

Most Read