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Traditional country music’s best friend succumbs to illness

Local songwriter, musician, producer and record-collector Lynn Russwurm passed away on Monday. He was 85.

He was well-known around these parts – and southern Ontario for that matter – for his love of traditional country music and spent most of his life writing it, playing it, and helping to keep it alive.

Russwurm created the popular Sunday Night Concert Series, which sees country and bluegrass musicians perform at Gore Park in Elmira every Sunday throughout the summer, packing in large crowds for the free concerts. It’s now in its 10th year. He had planned to come out and play a bit this summer, but then he fell ill.

Despite being unwell, he still booked all the performers himself this year. His son Lance Russwurm will now take over.

“He wants his songs to go on. He’s hoping his music will be played after he’s gone. We’re going to continue with those Sunday night shows he’s been doing. Those will continue. He’s very proud of starting that. That in particular he’s proud of because they’ve become a really big event in Elmira,” Russwurm said.

Naomi Bristow, Steve Piticco and Dwayne Friesen entertained the crowd on June 26 in Gore Park for the Sunday Night Concert Series, until thunder and lightning closed down the show.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Naomi Bristow, Steve Piticco and Dwayne Friesen entertained the crowd on June 26 in Gore Park for the Sunday Night Concert Series, until thunder and lightning closed down the show. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Lynn learned to play guitar as a teenager and created the Pine River Troubadours, his first band,  with Stan Taylor, when he was 19. Later he teamed up with his wife Laura as “The Pine River Sweethearts.” The band performed all over southern Ontario from the CKNX Barn Dance in Wingham to the Main Street Jamboree in Hamilton.

They stopped performing to raise a family, but were soon out singing and playing again, this time as the Hummingbirds, which they did for some 15 years.

He also led the Jamboree Reunion Band, which was born out of an Old Timer’s Reunion he organized for seven years in Kitchener.

Later, he joined forces with Bob Tremblay to create The Two Plus Who.

Lynn wrote hundreds of songs over his 60-some years in the music industry, some of which made it onto his own CDs, and others that were sung by fellow musicians. He released a songbook just last year as a companion to his 2012 CD, “Singing My Songs.” He also wrote seven of the songs on Lance’s recent album, Self Portrait.

“In addition to the music, which everybody knows about, he had one of the largest record collections in Canada until a year or two ago when he sold everything,” Russwurm said.

His Floradale home used to house some 30,000 albums, a true testament to his love of music.

Lance notes he was just speaking to The Commercial Tavern owner Paul Weber about how they, along with other musicians like Grant Heywood, all had fathers who were musicians in that generation. They all had one thing in common: they were gentlemen.

“Dad meant well to everybody, helped out everybody. He raised two families, adopted a bunch of kids, he just lived for making people happy through his music.”

A memorial service will take place on Tuesday, July 5 at 11 a.m. at St. James Lutheran Church in Elmira followed by a reception. A musical celebration of his life will take place at a later date.

Russwurm, Lynn Philip

Passed away peacefully at St. Mary’s General Hospital, Kitchener, with family at his side, on Monday, June 27, 2016, at the age of 85 years. Loved husband of Shirley Russwurm of Elmira. Dear father of Lance (Ann) Russwurm, Laurel (Bob) Jonkman, Luane, Liana, Larry, Lani Russwurm, Nicole (Todd) Russwurm-Straus,  and Jerry Russwurm. Step-father of Dan (Terri) Montgomery, Paul (Karen) Montgomery, and Sean (Lisa) Montgomery. Remembered by 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, and sisters Doreen (Delmer) Armbruster and Gertie Zimmerman. Lynn was predeceased by his daughter Lynda Pearson, step-daughter Yvonne Hamlyn, granddaughter April O’Farrell, parents Andrew and Anna Margaretha Russwurm, and brother Lorne Russwurm. Lynn was well known as a performer, promoter, and historian of traditional country music. The extremely popular ‘Sunday Night Concert Series’ in Gore Park, Elmira, was started by Lynn, and is now in its 10th year. Cremation has taken place. The family will receive their relatives and friends at the Dreisinger Funeral Home, 62 Arthur St. S., Elmira for a memorial visitation on Monday, July 4, 2016 from 7-9 p.m. A memorial service will take place on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 11 a.m. at St. James Lutheran Church, 60 Arthur St. S., Elmira followed by a reception. A musical celebration of a life well lived will take place on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 from 8:30 to 11:00 pm. at the Commercial Tavern, 1303 Maryhill Rd., Maryhill. In Lynn’s memory, donations to the Kidney Foundation or the Alzheimer’s Society would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy. www.dreisingerfuneralhome.com

(Obituary updated June 30, 2016)

 

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