Friday August 22, 2014

Musician dies in boating mishap

Sorrento man fell out of boat at Shuswap Lake

Gene Bretecher

A Sorrento angler who drowned in Shuswap Lake on the weekend was a well-known and respected bluegrass musician.

Gene Bretecher, 74, fell out of his boat only 30 metres from shore around mid-day Sunday. Despite a rapid response by rescuers, the man could not be resuscitated.

Bretecher was steeped in bluegrass music from an early age, growing up on a farm in Dauphin, Man.

“I know the bluegrass community is feeling the loss,” said Jim Leduc, who used to perform with Bretecher in the band Canadian Whitewater. “Gene was a long-time fisherman; that’s why he moved to the Shuswap.”

It was none other than the legendary Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys who inspired Bretecher on a tour through Manitoba in the 1950s. Monroe’s banjo player appreciated his interest and taught him a little of the innovative finger style of the famed Earl Scruggs.

Bretecher was hooked. He joined the band Northern Gentleman, shared the stage with Scruggs and other greats, and released his own album in the late ’70s.

According to musicians who knew him, Bretecher was a consummate instrumentalist — also adept at guitar — and an affable bandmate.

“He was extremely well known,” said Blu Hopkins, a fellow bluegrass musician from Silver Creek. “He played with some of the award-winning best up here. He was just a well-rounded, good guy. It’s quite a shock to the community.”

Bretecher, who taught music at the Sorrento home he shared with his wife, Linda, suffered a stroke in recent years.

“He got through it and was able to play again,” Leduc said. “He had to relearn to play the banjo. Getting those fingers going was a long struggle for him.”

A B.C. Coroner’s Office investigation continues.

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