‘Bud’s Bench’ marks the legacy of a beloved community volunteer

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A memorial bench honoring Bud Abbott, a pillar of the Cranbrook community for decades, was unveiled before a large crowd at the studio stage door on Saturday morning.

The bench, created by local artist Paul Reimer, features a sculpted outline of Bud Abbott playing the trombone, while a plaque includes descriptions of the deep-rooted legacy he planted in the community, the fruits of which will remain indelible.

The plaque also has a QR code; Just scan the code with a mobile phone’s camera and visitors will be taken to a special website with photos, videos and stories about Bud.

In a touching connection, the sculpture’s outline was contrasted with a photograph taken by Sally Passey, a similarly loved parishioner who recently passed away.

Peter Schalk, the President of the Cranbrook Community Theater Society, along with Abbott’s daughters Louise Abbott and Becky Walters, pulled the tarp away to applause before taking their seats.

Louise Abbott spoke about the personal benefits of volunteering in expanding social circles, increasing knowledge in many fields and contributing to longevity while reflecting on her father’s communal legacy.

“He would have been really proud of that moment,” Abbott said. “He would have been amazed, he would have been overwhelmed, he would have been very humbled. He would be up here telling you about all the other people involved in his life and how important they were to it. And he felt they should be honored as well.

“We are very proud as a family, and you should be very proud as a community.”

Local musicians Jamie Neve, Randy Marchi and Doug Mitchell also performed a song written about and dedicated to Abbott. Written by Mitchell, the song featured Marchi on trombone, the same instrument Abbott later in life learned to learn a new instrument.

The range of Bud’s volunteer work is huge.

In no particular order, Abbott has been a longtime volunteer with the Cranbrook Community Theater Society, the Cranbrook Rotary Club — which always led the national anthem — Meals on Wheels, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Cranbrook Arts Council, to name a few.

He participated in a barbershop quartet, community choirs, local music, and a singing group called Bud’s Friends.

But one of his lasting contributions to the community is his efforts to save the Studio Stage Door from demolition in the 1970s.

Abbott, along with others, persuaded the city to purchase the old Masonic temple and turn over its administration to the Cranbrook Community Theater Society, where it now serves as a thriving theatrical arts and performance venue.

“All in all, Bud was the citizen everyone wanted to emulate and it seems fitting that he’s our volunteering representative in Cranbrook,” said Schalk.

Locally elected officials also spoke about Abbott’s influence in speeches, while Leanne Jensen, president of the Cranbrook Rotary Club, also spoke about his propensity to follow club rules and the cross-generational impact on youth, including their daughter Jelena when she was a teenager.

He was named Cranbrook’s Citizen of the Year in 1992 and honored with the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for outstanding community service in 2002.

Born in England, Abbott served in the British Naval Forces during World War II before coming to Canada – and Cranbrook – in 1960. He died in 2019 at the age of 98.

A committee was formed last summer to bring Bud’s Bench to life.

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