Toronto musician buried in wrong grave to be remembered at a 'great celebration of life'

After 80-year-old Scott Cushnie fell down and died from his injuries while walking in downtown Toronto, another family misidentified his body as their own missing relative.

Scott Cushnie, a.k.a. Professor Piano, was misidentified by another man's family

Scott Cushnie, known as Professor Piano, was wrongly identified and buried in the wrong grave. (Submitted by Andrea Reid)
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Friends and family of a Toronto musician who went missing over the summer and ended up being buried in another man's grave finally have the chance to bid him a proper goodbye.  

Scott Cushnie, 80, better known as Professor Piano, went missing in August, around the same time that another family was trying to find a missing relative.

That family was contacted by authorities about an elderly man who had died in hospital after falling and injuring himself while walking downtown. The family identified him as their missing relative and laid him to rest. 

Then the man they believed they had buried came home — alive. 

Cushnie's body has since been exhumed from the other man's grave, and the musician's loved ones are planning a service to celebrate his life.

Andrea Reid, who helped lead the search for Cushnie, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about her late friend. Here is part of their conversation. 

Who came to tell you and the others that Scott had been buried as another person by another family?

Our lead detective called me and Scott's family to say that they were very sure that they had found Scott, but it wouldn't be until they exhumed him and, you know, formally checked. 

How are you and Scott's family ... dealing with this information?

It's been a surreal journey.

This has been such an emotional roller coaster and so much of it, honestly, was thinking we were never going to know what happened to him.

We were thinking really horrible things might have happened to him. One of the worst things that I could think of was that he had been injured or fallen somewhere, or something had happened to him where he had been injured for days and no one could get to him or help him.

And that was just a horrible, horrible thought. And I didn't know if I was ever going to get an answer, and I just hoped that whatever happened to him did happen quickly.

To go to one day thinking all of those thoughts to the next day knowing not only that he did have a very quick passing that was painless, but that an ambulance was right there and that he was looked after right away ... was an odd comfort, to say the least — but a comfort nonetheless.

Andrea Reid — a close friend of Scott Cushnie — helped lead the search for him after he disappeared from his home on Aug. 29. (CBC)

His nickname was Professor Piano. He was a very gifted musician. I understand he was legally blind. People loved his music — loved him. People seemed to think he had a pretty amazing life. Is that your feeling?

Scott was a brilliant musician and he has fans all over the globe. 

He's had a few different band iterations over the years. Canadian Aces with Professor Piano was probably what he's likely most well-known for — that and The Rockin' Deltoids. But he's had an amazing career from the '50s on.

For myself, watching him play was an amazing experience.

And just as a person? You couldn't find a better person, really. He had just a great sense of humour. It was always such a pleasure to be with him.

He told incredible stories, and he knew so much about music in general. I mean, I think that's partly for sure where he got the nickname Professor Piano.

He could tell you the most incredible details of any musician, especially, you know, from the turn of the century and into the '20s and '40s.

He knew a history of music that, sadly, with him is gone. I don't know that there's too many people who had the knowledge that Scott had.

What do you think he would make of this strange circumstance?

He would have been very heartbroken and sad that all of us who knew him and loved him were so upset and were searching for him frantically and having such hard days with that process.

But on the flip side, when all this came to light — I mean, a few times friends and family just felt like only Scott could this story happen to.

It just feels like if he is manipulating it from beyond the grave, I mean, his story is being told. And I take comfort in that. I think that's the silver lining in all of this.

I do think he might have had a laugh at all this. He certainly would have made some ridiculous pun about it, I'm sure.

Will there be another service, another way to memorialize him?

We are certainly with the family going to be doing a great celebration of life that is going to have many musicians take part and celebrate his life and his music. And I think we're all looking forward to that. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Imogen Birchard. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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