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Bob hits a higher note

Every 75 years, Robert "Bob" Thomsen plans on releasing a new album.

"This was a one-time thing. If you are around in 75 years, maybe you'll get another," he said.

The longtime Sequim resident just cut his first album featuring nine of his favorite hymns. Thomsen was hesitant but his children and friends encouraged him to record an album.

"I guess I did it because I was outnumbered in votes," he said.

He and his wife, Janis, have six children, three sons and three daughters, all of whom grew up playing music. Now, they also have nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Thomsen grew up singing country music and incorporated it into his life. He patterned his style after Jim Reeves, a popular country singer in the 1950s and 1960s.

"If I had to practice a song, then the cows would hear it," he said.

One of his musical memories was writing "Janis Lee," a love song for his soon-to-be wife. Janis said the song was a big reason for marrying Bob.

They married Aug. 20, 1953, after dating for a year.



Album's inspiration

About 15 years ago, Thomsen sang in the choir at Sequim Bible Church. There he performed a capella solos.

"That's when I sang "The Lord's Prayer." You could hear a pin drop," Thomsen said about people's reactions.

"The tears begin running down my face when I hear him do it," Janis said.

People in the church were in awe of his ability and began asking if he had considered recording.

Thomsen scoffed at the idea but years later the opportunity came up.

A recording time slot opened at Jeremy Cays's studio in Sequim - Thomsen planned to record an album then but changed his mind. He later rescheduled and recorded his CD in one session in mid-March.

The nine-track album, "Bob's Gospel Hymns," contains handpicked songs that Thomsen has enjoyed over the years.

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus," the eighth track on his album, was chosen because Bob's father, Aage Thomsen, knew how to play it on the accordion. Thomsen said the song honors his father's memory.

His album has become such a word-of-mouth hit with friends and family that he carries a copy with him wherever he goes.

All the tracks, except one, are copyrighted, so Thomsen only charges a "suggested donation" of $5.

"It is more about fun anyways," Janis said.

Her 94-year old uncle didn't want to invest in a CD player, so Thomsen has converted the album to cassette tape for him. He has done this for a few neighbors, too.

"One lady told me, 'There's hope for me yet," Janis said after the elderly woman discovered Thomsen's age.

Their daughter, Bonnie Bacon, accompanies him on piano for two tracks.

"Country people have their own rhythm," she said. "I know his style, and that's why he likes me to play with him."

"It feels like an old country church atmosphere," added her brother, David Thomsen.



The future

Thomsen loves singing, but recent health concerns have kept him from being more active. He retired in 2001 as a night custodian at Sequim High School but continued to substitute until recently. Before that, he drove trucks, was a grocer and a dairy farmer.

He hopes to bring together a few singing partners to sing "This Ole House," made famous by Rosemary Clooney.

"This family is full of surprises," Janis said.

Thomsen told a story about taking his eight-person family on an impromptu trip to North Dakota to visit relatives.

"They didn't know we were coming," Janis said.

"Sure, they did," Thomsen said.

"I knocked on their door."



Matthew Nash can be reached at mnash@sequimgazette.com.



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