The intimate village of Drumbo, Ont., is boldly announced along Highway 401 between Toronto and London, but might well claim fame as the most musical community in Canada.
For much of the past century, the village of fewer than 400 was blessed with two prolific music teachers. Parents did not decide whether to give their children music lessons; the tough choice was which busy teacher to choose.
Kathleen Bell lived for music: teaching children and adults for more than 80 years; playing the violin in symphony orchestras; and serving as organist at the Drumbo Baptist Church for more than 70 years. She retired only when minor strokes at 93 forced her to move to a retirement home too far away to sustain weekly church duty.
However, nothing could stop her violin and piano lessons. Many students loyally followed, and spread the word that Mrs. Bell continued in business. She immediately set up shop in the home's chapel – without asking permission – because surely God would not object to eager students creating music. The family quickly obtained a keyboard for her private suite, but Kathleen was so well patronized the management installed soundproofing.
Her business acumen had been honed while she was a teenager doing office duties for her parents, Alberta and Alfred Enticknap, whose canvas enterprise thrives as the Drumbo Tent Co., led by the family of Kathleen's only sibling, Evelyn, who died in 1988.
Kathleen studied the violin at the Adeney Studio, a short train ride away in Paris, Ont., but mastered the piano at home, taught by her mother.
After a long courtship, at 26, Kathleen married a fellow music lover, cellist Geoffrey Bell, the "people's dentist" who provided affordable service in Paris until retiring at 80, three years before his death in 1982.
Kathleen and Geoffrey had two children, Nuala and Dennis, who provided them with four devoted grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Family dinners had to fit into the rigorous schedule of lessons that Kathleen taught at the Mason & Risch grand piano dominating the living room, which was also the site of family performances.
When the Kitchener-Waterloo symphony orchestra needed help, Kathleen and Geoffrey became stalwart performers, along with daughter Nuala on violin, future son-in-law Arthur Freund on trombone and eventually grandson Bradley Freund on clarinet. Son Dennis learned to play several instruments, but rebelliously preferred popular music and played for 15 years with the Morganaires regional dance band.
Kathleen continued teaching – professionally – well past her 99th birthday. Her final three months were a challenge, but the true performer rallied to enjoy a grand family gathering with musical entertainment to celebrate her 100th birthday.
In Kathleen's memory, family and friends are endowing a student award at Wilfrid Laurier University, an appropriate way to mark a long life dedicated to music.
By Bob Verdun, family friend.