by Netty Watson from Windsor, ON
I met Wray in the fall of 1998. My husband and I had just moved to Tecumseh, near Windsor, and we were settling into our two-bedroom apartment. Wray’s wife, Teddy, the more outgoing of the two, introduced herself to us in the elevator on moving day.
My husband responded by introducing us, “This is my wife Netty and my name is Brad.”
“I know,” said Teddy.
“What floor do you live on?” I asked her.
“The same one you’re on,” replied Teddy. “My husband Wray and I live just down the hall.”
Apparently, news traveled quickly in this apartment building. It was home to many seniors. A young couple in their mid-thirties prompted a flurry of excitement amongst the elderly residents.
“Well,” I promised Teddy, “we will have you over for tea once we settle in. “
A few weeks later, Brad came home with a basket of plums that he had been given from one of his parishioners. I remembered my promise to Teddy and decided to invite our new neighbours over for tea and plum pie the following day. That afternoon, we were sitting in our kitchen, empty dessert plates pushed to the centre of the table with a second cup of tea in our hands. Conversation flowed freely between Teddy, Brad and me. However, I was keen on involving Wray in our conversation so I asked him questions. His answers, however, were limited to only one or two words. Then I noticed Wray looking at the piano in our living room.I asked him if he played a musical instrument. And at that, Wray’s eyes lit up. He told me about his band- The Wray Chapman Orchestra. Before WWII, Wray and his band played in the Sarnia -Glencoe area for three years. He then served his country proudly during WWII as an operating room nurse in a front line field hospital. After the war, Wray’s love of music never faded. He played with different bands in the Windsor area. If he wasn’t playing for audiences, he was playing for family and friends.
I asked Wray at tea that afternoon if he would be interested in getting together occasionally to play some of his favourites. Again, his eyes lit up.
For the next year, Wray would shuffle down the hall once a week to our apartment…music stand in one hand, guitar in the other, and a bundle of music under his arm. I would meet this eighty-two year old halfway, take his music stand in my one hand and his arm in my other, and as we made our way back to my apartment, he would tell me the repertoire for our afternoon session. We would then settle in for the next hour, allowing the music to flow out of our hearts …. me on piano. Wray on guitar.
In 1999, my husband and I purchased a home and left Wray and Teddy at the apartment in Tecumseh. We kept in touch and with each visit witnessed a decline in Wray’s health. In December 2001, we visited Wray in the hospital before leaving for Montreal, where Brad was going to complete some courses at Presbyterian College.
as we left Wray’s hospital room, Brad said “You had better take one more look at your friend….it might be the last time you see him.” It was…..
We received a call from Wray’s family a few weeks later. We came home . Brad assisted at Wray’s memorial service and I played Wray’s and my favourite song- “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. I played it alone. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.