ABC7 Salutes: 100-year-old WWII veteran from Loma Linda handcrafts his 100th violin

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Saturday, August 8, 2020
WW2 veteran has perfected art of crafting violins
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World War 2 veteran celebrates 70 years of working on the fine art of crafting violins and other stringed instruments.

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- Harold Rees has made hundreds of stringed instruments over the years. The widowed World War II veteran and father of three sons can usually be found in a workspace he affectionately calls his "Fiddler's Shop."

It's a space he built behind his home in Loma Linda, filled with tools that, in his hands, create music.

"I want to feel that I've done my best," said Rees.

Another talent is Rees' ability to draw, evidence of which can be found on the back of one of his violins. Harold still has the first violin he ever made back in 1949, when he was 29. In March of this year, for his 100th birthday, he began work on his 100th violin.

"I'm not quite as agile as I used to be," admitted Rees.

Rees has worked in a mill, built homes and sold books door-to-door. His life has been filled with doing things hands-on.

"If I can make stuff instead of buying it, I'll make it," said Rees.

But he always made time for music. Even now, he still repairs instruments for local musicians. Five days a week, he's in his shop, surrounded by the tools of his trade.

It's the rare occasion when someone like Lucille Taylor of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra plays for him with the viola he made for her.

"Mr. Rees is one of the best makers I know," said Taylor. "This centenarian is a friend of mine for so many years and I'm just so connected to him through the instrument. Every time I play it I think of him."

But for a man who at 100 years old never really retired from the work he loved, when each work day ends, it should surprise no one his mind never really leaves his current project.

"I wonder how in the world I can get the thing done faster and better and more perfect," mused Rees.