‘It feels like a nightmare’: Friends and family mourn Ottawa man killed in storm

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When Steve Hamre wanted to play a song on guitar but didn’t know the notes, all he had to do was ask his friend Rob Hayami for help.

“I called him and said, ‘Hey Rob, listen to this song, what are the chords?'” recalled the 50-year-old. “He had an ear for music. He could play anything.”

He smiled as he said this, but over the past few days Hamre has found that songs he hears on the radio are a bitter reminder that his good friend has passed.

Friends of the 49-year-old Ottawa man say he was a victim of the deadly Derecho storm that slammed across Ontario and Quebec on May 21, leaving destruction in its wake and leaving tens of thousands without power.

At least 10 other people died as a result of injuries sustained that day, while another person was killed by a falling branch the following day.

Hayami loved to play the guitar and, according to his friend Steve Hamre, had a great ear for music. (Submitted by Steve Hamre)

According to Hamre, Hayami loved hockey, music and golf. He said his friend was at Cedarhill Golf and Country Club with his eight-year-old son Owen when the storm hit.

They saw dark clouds gathering and were on their way back to the clubhouse when the raging wind knocked down a tree on their cart.

Hamre said he was told Hayami was being held. An obituary on the Tubman Funeral Homes website says he died Wednesday on Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus surrounded by loved ones.

He is survived by his son, his wife Kristine McGillivray, his two brothers Geoff and Steven, and his parents Hiroshi and Jane.

“It feels like a nightmare, it doesn’t feel real,” Hamre said. “But unfortunately we won’t be seeing Rob again.”

No longer there to lead songs

Jack Pelletier shared an emotional message of sorrow on Facebook Thursday, in which he described himself as Hayami’s “best friend,” before quickly adding that he’s “far from being his only ‘best’ friend.”

Humility, kindness and humor were just some of the words he used to describe him, adding that he and others had spent the last three days in a “constant flood of memories and tears”.

A group of friends went to the hospital just days before Hayami’s death, Pelletier said, just to be close to him.

“A couple of us were sitting in the parking lot with our guitars,” his post reads. “I could feel that Rob was there a little bit, but he wasn’t physically there to lead the songs anymore.”

Steve Hamre (left) and Rob Hayami (right) pose together in this undated photo. (Supplied by Steve Hamre)

Hamre is also missing the music.

“He was a great friend,” he said of Hayami. “One of the best guys you could ever know.”

Growing up with Hayami in Orléans, he says his phone flooded with people exchanging stories and photos — and brought back moments he didn’t even remember.

In each they stand side by side.

“He’s the guy you walked across the room with and he’s always smiling, has open arms for everyone,” Hamre said.

“He left a lot of people behind.”

Hamre said that a large group of friends will always be there for Hayami’s family to honor the many relationships he has built by making sure those he loves most are taken care of.

Owen is already carrying on part of his father’s legacy by playing the piano, he added.

“I hope he gets the ear that Rob had for music.”

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