Bob McMullen

Volunteer brings power of music to Langley patients

A Lower Mainland senior is playing music for those in a local care facility

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

– Elton John

The patients at Arbutus Place, an older adult tertiary facility in Langley, can attest to this, courtesy of a White Rock senior who volunteers there Tuesdays, playing electric piano and singing for their enjoyment.

Bob McMullen first visited Arbutus Place after his wife, Trina, developed complex needs.

After Trina passed away, her husband continued to visit and volunteered to play his keyboard for patients – an event they look forward to each week.

“I just like playing music for people, seeing them laugh and smile and have a good time,” McMullen said.

Despite suffering a stroke a year-and-a-half ago complicated by a number of additional health problems, McMullen, 80, was back at his keyboard within a week. In August, McMullen’s health took a turn for the worse but he has since recovered and continues to play music at Arbutus.

McMullen doesn’t volunteer solely for patients, he explained: “The caregivers have a rough job. They go above and beyond when it comes to looking after people.”

In recognition of his volunteerism and special contribution to Arbutus Place, McMullen received an Above and Beyond Award on Wednesday morning.

Above and Beyond is an annual event that celebrates the outstanding achievements of Fraser Health employees, physicians, and volunteers.

McMullen started playing music in 1949, when he was 13 years old.

“My mom was a good piano player, and wanted me to play something, so I got an accordion,” he reminisced. “I was playing an accordion all those years, not every day, but an on and off thing.”

Back in the late 1990s, early 2000s, McMullen and his wife wintered in Yuma, Ariz., where he met a “bunch of musicians.”

That’s where he picked up the keyboard he plays now.

“I taught myself how to play it,” he said. “I can’t read music; I just play it.”

When at Arbutus, McMullen said he plays “old stuff, that they [patients] used to listen to when they were younger.”

“I play a whole lot of medleys, one right after another,” he added. “I have a whole book of song titles, so I open it up, read the titles, and start playing.”

He gets a ride to Arbutus from his friend Gerry Schulz.

“The reason being,” McMullen said, “is that my eyes are not working like they used to. I had a stroke back in 2014 and it affected my eyesight, so I took myself off the road. I don’t want to be a danger to anyone.”

His latest health scare occurred in the early summer when he had to undergo open heart surgery.

“My daughter said I was on life support for five days,” McMullen said. “They were just about to write me off when doctors came to her and said I bounced back. I guess I’m lucky.”

Lucky too, for the residents of Arbutus Place, who have another opportunity to enjoy McMullen’s music.

“I don’t think about being a hero,” McMullen said. “I just like to make people happy, make them smile. I’m sort of a self-made musician and I’m passing it on to other people.”

Just Posted

Team BC advancing undefeated in junior nationals

A Langley-based team is 6-0, thus far, at the Canadian curling championships.

Langley serves as backdrop to pair of competing short films

In the 20th annual Crazy8s Film competition, two of six producers will be filming in Langley.

VIDEO: Rivermen back on the ice in Langley tonight

In their game against West Kelowna tonight, Langley’s junior A hockey team gets into action at 7:15.

Louder helicopter partly to blame for rash of complaints in Surrey: RCMP

Police say helicopter training is conducted in Cloverdale because it’s ‘a very practical area where we do a lot of real police work’

Chances coming for public to have say on Langley tax rates

Local councillors will soon debate property tax rates for 2019.

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

M’s legend Edgar Martinez, Rivera, Mussina also make the grade

South Surrey mother ‘never called 911’ after killing daughter, court hears

Crown submits evidence shows Lisa Batstone wanted eight-year-old Teagan to die

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Video: Runaway Coquihalla dog returned to owner

Archer, the dog found roaming along Coq. Hwy. on Jan. 19, has been reunited with owner

Most Read