White Rock senior remembered as builder, musician

Longtime White Rock resident Malcolm Corey ‘had a lot of guts' – and a passion for karaoke.

When White Rock senior Malcolm Corey got up to sing karaoke, people took notice.

It wasn’t because the octogenarian couldn’t hit the high or long notes – quite the opposite, in fact.

He hit them well, one of them – at the end of the well-known Jimmy Webb song, MacArthur Park – so well he had pub-goers decades his junior cheering and banging on the table for more.

The memory is one of many Corey’s son, Graham, cherishes, and one that’s sure to ring a bell to other regulars of Langley and White Rock’s karaoke scene.

“He sang karaoke everywhere,” neighbour Tom Saunders said.

“Mal had a lot of guts.”

Corey’s exuberance on those stages will, no doubt, be missed.

The 81-year-old died Feb. 1, from injuries suffered in a crash in Point Roberts, Wash.

Corey had been en route to work on his 28-foot Aloha sailboat when his Chevy Avalanche veered off the road near the Point Roberts marina just after 5:30 p.m. It crashed through a fence and into a boat and RV storage yard, hitting four vessels and a motorhome.

Graham Corey said exactly what caused his dad to lose control is unclear, but he believes the tragedy may have been triggered by a medical issue.

He described his dad as a man who loved music, science, mechanics and helping others.

Further testament to the first are the baby-grand piano and Wurlitzer church organ that adorned the living room of his White Rock home, and the zithers and such that hung from the walls.

Graham Corey can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of his dad’s life, whether he was tickling the ivories on the baby grand, writing music for competitions or singing with a choir.

One song his dad wrote, The Bells of Canada, was performed by the former BC Tel Choir, during a simulcast from Canada Place, he said.

“He soloed Silent Night,” Corey said. “That doesn’t happen to just anybody.”

Malcolm Corey started in radio in Winnipeg, at the age of 18, but went on to work most of his life in industrial electronics.

He moved with his family to Nanaimo in 1965, and lived in White Rock from about the mid-’80s.

Graham Corey recalled his dad was also a keen astronomer, who captured “amazing” images of an Orionid meteor shower during a family trip to Hawaii, using a telescope he’d built and equipped with a 24-hour clock drive. He shared the results of that 1974 effort with fellow members of the Royal Astronomical Society. They were impressed, Graham Corey recalled.

“The stars were perfect pinpoints, nothing smudged, and the shooting stars that had gone through the screen… people were oohing and ahhing,” he said.

The telescope was just one of the many things Malcolm Corey built to satisfy his own interests and passions.

In high school, he built a small jet engine to compete in an airplane-flying competition; Graham Corey remembers helping his dad as he worked in the family’s carport to rebuild the engine of an Austin-Healey Sprite, and is certain sharing the moment is what fueled his own longstanding interest in all things automotive.

“I now have owned 100-and-something vehicles,” he said. “That stems from handing his sockets when I was a little kid and seeing it all happening.”

Other parallels between the father and son include a shared interest in commercial diving, a love for sushi and a knack for fixing friend’s and neighbour’s appliances.

“He never stopped helping people,” his son said. “He couldn’t just look at somebody that needed something and say, I’m not going to bother to do it.”

In addition to his son, Malcolm Corey is survived by his daughter Lana and 16-year-old grandson, Austin.

Details of a service have not been finalized.