Beloved accordion finds new home — 2205 kilometres away

A B.C. woman gifts her late father's accordion to a Nunavut-based accordionist she has never met.

A B.C. woman gifts her late father's accordion to a Nunavut-based accordionist she saw profiled on CBC

Kristi Gustafson (L), of Maple Ridge, B.C. poses with her late father's accordion before she sent it to accordionist Gunther Kablutsiak (R), who lives in Arviat, Nunavut. (Supplied)

The distance between Maple Ridge, British Columbia and Arviat, Nunavut is 2205 kilometres — and that's how far a very special accordion travelled over the past week to get to its new owner.

The accordion belonged to the late Emil Gustafson, who died this spring at age 95. According to Gustafson's daughter Kristi, he had been playing the accordion since he was eight years old on the prairies.

"My whole life we had the accordion music in the background. He always played accordion."

Unfortunately Emil was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in his 80s and couldn't remember old songs. He decided to give away his old accordions and didn't play music for quite a few years.

Emil Gustafson, who passed away this year at age 95, playing the accordion. (Supplied)

Last year, to cheer him up, Kristi bought her father a new accordion.

"When I brought it to Dad, and he strapped it on, his whole face just lit right up. He didn't even play a lot of his old songs, he made up songs ... but he was still playing music and really enjoying it."

After he passed away, Gustafson wanted to find a new owner for her dad's accordion.

That's when she came across this CBC profile on Gunther Kablutsiak, an accomplished accordionist who played at Vancouver's Accordion Noir Festival in September.

Gunther Kablutsiak is in Vancouver for the Accordion Noir Festival 2:12

Kablutsiak, 33, started playing accordion when he was eight, after watching local elders play at square dances. He plays an accordion that was passed to him by his wife's grandmother.

"Just listening to the way Gunther was talking about how everyone would gather and listen to the accordion and do the square dancing — that was my parents, that was their life too. He just seemed to be the right person to give Dad's accordion to," she said.

After getting in touch with Kablutsiak, Gustafson sent the accordion up to Arviat from her home in Maple Ridge.

Gunther Kablutsiak picks up his new accordion. Kristi Gustafson sent the accordion — originally her father's — by plane from Maple Ridge, B.C. to Arviat, Nunavut. (Supplied)

When it finally arrived yesterday, Kablutsiak was delighted.

"I felt like crying but I didn't want my kids to see me crying," he said.

Kablutsiak — who said he had been playing the instrument all night and morning since it arrived  — is planning on keeping in touch with Gustafson.

"I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart. That's the exact same accordion I've thought about ordering and I got it for free from a stranger!"

Gustafson is happy her dad's accordion is with Kablutsiak.

"It makes me feel good to know that accordion is going to be making music up there."

With files from CBC North