It wasn’t just a guitar that a thief stole out of Derek O’Halloran’s van on a cold night last October near Downtown Guelph.
It would be easy to move on if that were the case.
You can buy another guitar. You can borrow one. Someone will give you one. He even has a back-up.
But the beat up acoustic Taylor 714CE with all the dents and scratches that someone pilfered in the early hours that morning is a lot more than a guitar to the Guelph musician.
“I feel like I’m missing part of my family,” says O’Halloran, still getting emotional three months after it was stolen.
“I’m heartbroken. I’ve been through so much with this guitar.”
The story began 19 years ago.
Finally accomplished enough to finally invest in a high end guitar, the teenaged O’Halloran and his grandfather Ted O’Halloran went into Cosmo Music in Richmond Hill and chose the pristine $3,500 guitar hanging on the wall.
It was put on layaway, with Derek dutifully paying it down and not really realizing that his grandfather was also sneaking in making payments of his own every now and then.
It was the guitar he wrote his first heartbreak song on.
It’s the guitar that shielded him as he worked up the courage to perform on stage.
It was the guitar that gave him the courage to quit his day job and take up music full time.
It was the guitar he played softly for his grandmother as she lay dying in a hospital bed.
“So my point is, what’s in that case, isn’t just a guitar. It’s a large part of my life, of who I am, and where I’ve been. It’s taught me about myself, and what’s inside of me when I’m standing in front of people or sitting alone,” O’Halloran wrote in an open letter to the thief.
O’Halloran, 38, is a professional musician. One of the few locally who can earn a living playing by himself and with various others in venues ranging from bars and halls to retirement homes and schools.
After a Thursday night gig out of town, he stopped at a friend’s house to feed their cats as they were away.
He got caught up watching some television, not realizing he hadn’t locked the driver’s door of the old VW van when he got out.
“My heart sank when I saw the door ajar when I came out,” he remembers.
The thief took $105 sitting on the console, part of the night’s pay, a half-eaten box of cookies and the cherished guitar.
They didn’t take the amp, the pedal board or the spare set of keys sitting there that would have let them steal everything.
The efforts to get it back, then and since, have been extensive.
First he phoned his brother and they drove around in the wee hours, hoping to find the culprit.
Police were called, Kijiiji searched, every pawn shop and music store for miles contacted, countless posters taped up, Reddit posts written.
A friend has also set up a web page about the incident.
The guitar wouldn’t be worth much. It’s pretty beat up and has had numerous repairs.
“I have another guitar, so I can keep making money, but it’s not the same feeling, the same quality or the same sentiment that the other one has,” he says.
O’Halloran penned a letter to the person that stole his guitar.
"This guitar is like a family member to me. I can't imagine my life without it. Please help me find my sweat-filled memory-box to remedy the heartbreak that no longer having it has left me with," the letter concludes.
O’Halloran just wants his guitar back. No questions asked, and is willing to give a reward for its return.
He can be reached at email@example.com.