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COVID silences the music Armoured-vehicle driver was planning to park it in June; spend retirement entertaining seniors with his bandmates

Bob Cruden was planning to retire this summer, with dreams of trading in the steering wheel of an armoured vehicle for a guitar to entertain seniors with his band.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/02/2022 (349 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Bob Cruden was planning to retire this summer, with dreams of trading in the steering wheel of an armoured vehicle for a guitar to entertain seniors with his band.

But COVID-19 put an end to those plans.

Cruden, who died Jan. 22 at the age of 67, is one of hundreds of Manitobans who contracted the virus and died during the fourth wave of the pandemic, and one of 1,637 lost since it arrived in the province almost two years ago.

The deaths of 18 more since Saturday were announced Monday.

SUPPLIED Robert (Bob) Cruden is one of hundreds of fourth wave pandemic casualties.

“We were looking at retiring,” Dora, Cruden’s wife of 43 years, said Monday.

“Finally, we were retiring;the numbers were there,” she said. “All the plans were made. He had his bandmates set up. He was going to be on vacation right now — he would have taken all six weeks — and then he only had three more months of work before he retired on June 30.

“He was working until we all tested positive.”

The provincial government reported Monday that there are 415 people in hospital with the virus, 258 admitted during the past week (a drop of 12.2 per cent from the week before) and 26 patients in intensive care. There were 30 new ICU cases in the past week, a drop of 11.8 per cent compared to the week before.

The deaths of 1,637 Manitobans have been attributed to COVID-19.

Dora said almost everyone in their house, including their adult son and his wife, contracted COVID in January despite all being fully vaccinated. Only their seven-year-old granddaughter, who has since received her first vaccination shot, didn’t contract the virus.

“(Bob) tested positive on Jan. 13 — we all did,” she said. “But he just got worse.”

Cruden’s son, Jim, said other than his dad, everyone else recovered.

“Most of our symptoms were gone in four or five days, but dad just kept getting sicker and sicker,” he said. “He was taken away by ambulance and three hours later he was gone.”

The family said Cruden had been diagnosed with blood cancer, and while it had been in remission for more than a decade, his immune system was damaged.

“It couldn’t handle the COVID and then his heart couldn’t stand the strain,” said Dora.

“Most of our symptoms were gone in four or five days, but dad just kept getting sicker and sicker. He was taken away by ambulance and three hours later he was gone.” – Son Jim Cruden

Cruden loved music and first picked up the guitar when he was just eight years old. He took private music lessons and, by the time he reached high school at Nelson McIntyre, he was jamming with some friends. They formed a band in 1972 called Crudi, and he played lead guitar.

“He was a rock guy, but then he changed through the years,” said Dora. “The only music he didn’t like was fusion jazz.

“He played everywhere. He played at the old Black Knight on Ellice. He played the Marion. The George.”

Cruden played for a few years in the band Shotgun and then in Sam and the Sparrows.

“There was nobody named Sam in the band — they just called themselves that,” she said, adding it was at some point during those years they met and fell in love.

“I met him bowling,” she recalled. “My aunt said there’s some nice guys over there and I said, ‘I don’t need a guy in my life.’

“But then his six-foot-five guy walked in and I said, ‘Oh my.’”

“He played everywhere. He played at the old Black Knight on Ellice. He played the Marion. The George.” – Wife Dora Cruden

Jim called his father a ‘gentle giant.’

After getting married, the couple lived in the house his dad built in 1955 when Bob was a teenager. The property itself was purchased by his grandfather.

“My daughter is the fifth generation to live in this home,” said Jim.

In fact, it was because of his family that Cruden put down his guitar in 1979.

“We had our family and there were other things that had to be,” said Dora.

The family called it Cruden’s “20-year hiatus.” During those two decades he never picked up the guitar — not even for campfires — until his children were grown.

“He said he had to put it down because he had to, but as soon as he could he picked it up again,” said Jim.

“He never wanted to play alone. He wanted to play with his friends.”

FACEBOOK Bob Cruden (far right) with his Johnny Cash tribute band Cold Hard Cash.

Cruden was rusty at first — Jim said his dad said “he had to build his callouses again” — but soon he was playing in bands again, including Dirty Little Secret, Le Crazy, jam sessions with his daughter Karyn as singer, and then The Backaches and finally Cold Hard Cash, the latter having a special shtik.

“They always wore tuxedos,” said Dora.

“He had a white one, a black one and five different colour shirts. They were one of the more stylish bands out there.”

Cruden may have been a part-time musician on evenings and weekends, but his day job for more than three decades was working in security with GardaWorld. He had taken on different duties during his career, from loading bank machines to his final years driving an armoured vehicle.

As a final tribute to their beloved co-worker, GardaWorld’s national head office gave the go-ahead to allow three armoured trucks to lead a line of personal vehicles on a convoy past Cruden’s long-time residence in St. Boniface.

“He was going to go to senior homes with his high school friends and they were going to play for them. They weren’t going to get paid, he just wanted to bring the joy to the residents.” – Son Jim Cruden

“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Dora. “He was really well respected there. It was just a beautiful sendoff.”

Both Dora and Jim said while Cruden may have had music plans for his retirement, it wasn’t about earning money.

“He was going to go to senior homes with his high school friends and they were going to play for them,” said Jim. “They weren’t going to get paid, he just wanted to bring the joy to the residents.”

Jim said his dad planned to play and record music with his daughter.

“They had a studio set up and they would have been on YouTube,” he said. “It was only five months until this would start.”

REVERBNATION Robert (Bob) Cruden was planning to retire this summer.

Dora said if her husband had to die, she’s glad it happened the way it did.

“Dying after three hours is much better than after years of cancer treatment,” she said. “And he had a smile on his face when he left here.

“He didn’t feel like eating. I asked if he wanted toast or eggs and he said no. Then his daughter-in-law brought red-velvet muffins and he had one.”

“It turns out this was his last meal,” said Jim. “He left home with a smile after having a muffin. He was smiling and then his heart gave out.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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