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Columbia ragtime legend Robert Ault dies at 63

Monday, April 9, 2012 | 9:14 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 9, 2012

Robert David Ault spent his life warming hearts and ears everywhere with his jolly personality and ragtime rhythms. 

Mr. Ault of Blackwater died Saturday, April 7, 2012. He was 63. 

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He was born March 9, 1949, in Dearborn, Mich., to John L. Ault and Betty (McNeally) Ault.

Mr. Ault, a self-taught musician, fell in love with ragtime at a young age when he purchased his first ragtime album and record player. For the rest of his life, he was an avid collector of old records, sheet music and books.

He knew how to play 27 different instruments, but mostly performed the piano and banjo at Columbia's Blind Boone Ragtime Festival, among multiple other festivals throughout Missouri and nationwide. 

"His biggest feather in his cap was when he was asked to play ragtime in Japan," his son, David Ault, said. 

Mr. Ault lived in Blackwater for 10 years before he died. He was a beloved member of the community, as he provided much of the town's entertainment.

"There's a saloon, and every Saturday he was in there playing the piano," said Mark Banner of Blackwater's West End Community Theatre. "He would draw the crowds in. He was sort of an attraction of his own. People would come just to listen to Bob play."

"He was kind of the large, jolly fellow — the white hair, the white beard — he was Santa Claus every year for I don't know how many years in Blackwater," said Banner. "He would fill whatever role we asked him. He was very community-minded."

Mr. Ault was also a role model for his cheerful disposition.

"It didn’t matter what kind of problems he was having in his life. He always managed to pull a smile to his face. He'd persevere through just about any roadblock that was put in front of him," his son said. "He just spent his life doing what he loved."

Mr. Ault is survived by two sons, David Ault of O'Fallon and Russell Ault of Denver; two brothers, John Ault of Indianapolis and Charles Ault of St. Louis; three grandsons; and his significant other, Donna Roberts of Blackwater.

Visitation will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Davis Funeral Chapel, 1397 Ashley Road in Boonville. Services will follow at 3 p.m. at the funeral home. Internment will be at a later date.

Memorial contributions can be made to Blackwater's West End Community Theatre, 301 Doodridge Ave., Blackwater, MO 65322.


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