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Dave Baskerville shares his spirit with North Shore audiences

by Laura Anderson,
North Shore News

North Vancouver entertainer Dave Baskerville believes everyone is given a gift that is their own and that life is about sharing it with others. NEWS photo, Mike Wakefield

North Vancouver entertainer Dave Baskerville believes everyone is given a gift that is their own and that life is about sharing it with others. NEWS photo, Mike Wakefield

A glimpse of a pink accordion led me to a memorable meeting with North Vancouver’s Dave Baskerville.

Dave entertains at seniors’ centres and residences all over the North Shore, making music with his vintage accordion, adding comedy and spot on impersonations to the mix. “I enjoy it,” he says, “it makes the people happy and joyous.”

All the Baskervilles were musical. Father played the mouth organ and mother the piano and accordion. Her mother was a professional music teacher who played any tune on the piano without the need for sheet music. Dave’s twin brother, Gary played harmonica and Dave played guitar and accordion.

Back then, Elvis Presley and guitar bands were popular but Dave liked the accordion. “It was square but I didn’t care,” he laughs.

He was born in 1942 in Halifax, Nova Scotia where his mother, from Glasgow, and his father, from County Cork in Ireland, had met and wed.

The family traveled back and forth from coast to coast, purchasing a home in Nanaimo in 1949, only to rent it and return to Halifax. By 1954, the Baskerville family had decided the west coast would be home. When Dave’s father died, his mother settled in New Westminster, in a house that was built in 1912, one year after her birth in 1911.

After graduating from high school, Dave found work with a landscaper but it wasn’t long before he began to range further afield, working up and down the coast as a longshoreman, “in the old boom and tackle days”, he explains, “with 15 men to a hatch. Today, it’s all cranes and containers.”

From long shoring on the docks of Vancouver Island, Dave turned to cooking, his father’s trade, following in his footsteps to logging and mining camps further up the Inside Passage.

On March 24, 1975, Dave hired on as a custodian with school district 44, working at such schools as Windsor, Blueridge, Queensbury and Brooksbank for 24 years, retiring in December 1999. Dave was living in North Vancouver when a mutual friend introduced him to Jacinta Galicia, whom he married in 1981. Their North Vancouver home was built, like Dave’s mother’s home in New Westminster, in 1912.

Over the years, Dave continued to entertain at weddings and parties. His sideline in standup comedy and impersonations was popular but the music Dave coaxed out of his Hohner accordion was his personal favourite.

At one wedding, a guest, impressed with Dave’s performance, invited him to come have a look at a special accordion. The pink bakelite instrument, made by hand in 1942 by the Italian makers Mariano Dallapé, was a gift to Dave. “He said I want you to have it and enjoy it and my wife asked me why I was almost crying when I got home,” he recalls.

Within a few days, an accident. The Mariano slipped out of Dave’s grasp. Dave took the accordion apart and figured out how it worked. As he describes it, the accordion is an amalgamation of several instruments: a piano keyboard, clarinet reeds and the bellows from a bagpipe. As Dave explains, the mechanism works on the same principle as the pistons on an automobile engine.

The accident caused the chords on the inside of the instrument, held by beeswax and resin, to come apart but the reeds were okay and the wood wasn’t broken. With some carpenter’s glue carefully applied and a bit of sanding, the accordion was repaired and Dave was back in action.

One day last week, I speaking with volunteer Nancie Pearson at the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Centre information desk when along came Dave. As Nancie, a long time friend of Dave and Jacinta, says, “Dave is one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever known and one who travels to a different drum beat.”

Dave believes everyone is given a gift that is our own. Life is about sharing that gift, whatever it might be.

When Dave and Jacinta aren’t traveling the world (they’re off to Europe in June to celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary) or tending their garden, Dave is out and about, sharing his music, his philosophy of life and his generous spirit.