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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner’s report confirms cause of death of three men at Sooke River in 2020

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen drown while ‘puddle-jumping’ in pickup truck

File
The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

Sooke Road will be down to a single lane Thursday night while crews work on a water main connection. (Pixabay stock image)
Sooke Road down to single lane for water main connection

Night work scheduled for Thursday, early Friday morning

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts from trucks into the tilted soil at a farm. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
‘They’re afraid’: Coalition sounds alarm over COVID vaccines for B.C.’s migrant workers

Though health ministry says anyone can get vaccinated, critics say barriers are keeping migrants from their dose

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

Most Read