Barry and Kayleen had done everything together. They’d raised a loving family and owned Brisbane’s innovative music store Toombul Music for over 25 years.
In retirement, they were active members of the Mooloolaba community. They ran fundraising events for Hear and Say. Their new venture, a CD series called Music for Cruizin’ was reuniting grey nomads with the hits of their youth.
But for Barry, the joy had gone. He freely admits, “I had nothing inside”.
A few months later, an unexpected letter from the Governor-General’s Department lifted Barry’s spirits. He had been nominated for an Order of Australia Medal, AOM for service to the performing arts, particularly through music.
“It was a lovely surprise. It came at a time when I needed hope,” he said.
The award sparked a flow of positive events Firstly, Channel 7 on the Sunshine Coast filmed the news and Barry Bull was able to publicly dedicate his OAM to Kayleen “because without her I couldn’t have achieved that anyway. We were lifetime partners”.
Kayleen had died from a stroke during the Hear and Say fundraising concert.
By chance, Keith Urban’s mum saw the Channel 7 report and called Barry.
“Keith would like you to come to his concert on Saturday night as his guest,” she announced.
Barry had known Keith from Toombul Music days. After school each day, long-haired teenage boys with their shirts hanging out would lope into the music shop, dump their bags and pick up the guitars.
Keith had bought his first guitar from Toombul Music. This reunion and other gestures of kindness have helped Barry to look forward again.
He was also helped by having grief counselling. And this was not his idea. His son said, “Dad, I think I need to go to a counsellor. Will you come with me?”
Barry agreed. At the appointment it was Barry who did all the talking. So he kept going back. But a few months on he was stuck in the pits. Kayleen’s sudden death had left him no time to say goodbye. At his counsellor’s suggestion, he started writing about his life with Kayleen. Narrative therapy, she called it.
This writing has grown into a book, called Unforgetabull. It’s the love story of their rich life together in the music business. It’s filled with anecdotes about the musicians and celebrities the Bulls knew and supported over the years – John Farnham, John Denver, Tommy Emmanuel and Cliff Richard to name a few.
It also deals with the challenges of retiring and finding a new purpose.
Five years ago, Barry and Kayleen became passionate advocates for deaf children and Hear and Say after their grandson Archer was born with severe hearing loss. Archie has two cochlear implants and has regular sessions at Hear and Say to fine tune the settings.
“It’s remarkable. He’s got a normal life,” said Barry. “He says to me, ‘Whatcha doing Grandad? Where you been?”.
Barry, Kayleen, family and musician friends have now staged their Gift of Sound concert three times at the Maroochydore Surf Club.
This year, the Hear and Say benefit concert is dedicated as A Concert for Kayleen. The lunch and concert will promote the work of Hear and Say and it will also be an opportunity for the community to celebrate her life.
A Concert for Kayleen
Club Kawana (Kawana Bowls Club) 476 Nicklin Way, Wurtulla
Sunday, July 28, 12.30pm-5pm. Tickets $50 include two-course lunch and entertainment. Booking essential. Call 3850 2111 or visit hearandsay.com.au