THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (January 31, 2023)
Constantly bombarded with stories about the dregs of mankind; the greedy, the egotistical, the pompous, and the just-plain-evil in our midst, I’ve become more and more inclined to keep to myself. I’m fighting my inclination to back off from humanity for a moment to pay tribute to one of the role models whom I think we would all do well to emulate. His name is Bob Gray and he passed away last week.
I first met Bob at the now defunct Village Tavern in Burk’s Falls in the beginning of 2015, wherein I attended my first Burk’s Falls 3rd Friday Coffee House. Produced by Bob, and his co-producer Peter Hall, along with his sons Len and Dave, and his wife June and daughter Kelli, those coffeehouses featured primarily local musicians and was held on the 3rd Friday of every month. I went with no expectations and was immediately drawn in by the warmth and acceptance of the audiences and musicians. The performers ranged from really good, to first-time and nervous as hell, but the acts were always entertaining. It wasn’t long before I was motivated to get up on stage and perform some of my original songs as well.
Over the next 4 years, I performed numerous times and met many of the local musicians I now call friends. The events provided, and still provide, local musicians with a stage and a proper sound system to test out original songs they’d written, or covers they’d learned. Oftentimes, there was spontaneous magic, knock-it-outta-the park performances, musicians spontaneously joining other musicians at the last minute, and of course, moments of levity and humour when Bob raffled off “stuff from my basement”. I can’t remember a coffee house I did not enjoy.
Bob and Peter understood something that many of us sometimes take for granted; music is unifying, it connects people. The selfless efforts on behalf of the Gray and Hall families to produce those shows, month after month, was a huge benefit to our community. Bob and Peter clearly loved music and their enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone who attended any of those events. Every summer, they also produced the Burk’s Falls Country Jamboree, featuring live, local, and regional country and bluegrass music. All told, their contributions to the local music scene were genuinely impactful, and I for one, am thankful they did what they did.
When in 2020 all music venues closed because of the pandemic, the Burk’s Falls 3rd Friday Coffee House had to shut down as well, and it was soon thereafter that Bob fell ill with a rare form of blood cancer. For any of his friends and family who followed his journey from there on, you know that he faced his challenges with humour and dignity. Whether it was his Facebook missives from “Chateau Princess Margaret” or his exploits with his good friend “Pole” (his IV pole) captured on his Bob Gray's Progress Facebook group page, his strength and courage were far beyond what I could have mustered in a similar circumstance. That was just who Bob Gray was.
No man or woman is really the best judge of how their actions impact others. The older I get. the more I think about what I want my legacy to be. Bob’s legacy is sound, and from my interactions with the man, I am certain that in his life, he did more good than harm. I will always remember him for the good energy he and his family pumped into the local community, his love for his wife ("Sweetie") and the rest of his family, for his love of music, and for his kindness and generosity. His positive energy and humour affected countless lives. My wife, Shauna Leigh, and I, and anyone fortunate enough to have known the man, will miss him. That the Burk's falls 3rd Friday Coffeehouse lives on, is a tribute to this wonderful human being. RIP Bob Gray, although I suspect with you there, Heaven will be another venue at which you and your eternal buddies will play.
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2023 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED