Sunday, August 12, 2012

Whereas Small Town Has Lost A Gem

The Greco Band Playing A Street Festival
Small Town has an Italian festival about this time every year. We fought for it, too, because it used to be held in the town next door until someone lured the committee over to our side of the border. We shut down the main drag for a couple of days and fill it with inflatable rides for little kids, food trucks selling Stromboli and Italian sausage, a beer garden and tables where people sell Indian dresses. What Indian dresses have to do with our local Italian heritage is anybody’s guess.

There is a wine making contest, spaghetti eating contest, tomato sauce making contest and grape stomping. On the final night of this thing, my big summer band plays Italian music, mostly.

We played tonight, with our set up placed right in the middle of main street. Just as we sat down and organized the music in our folders with clothespins to keep the sheets from blowing away, it was announced that one of our former members, Raymond “Skeet” Botdorf, died this morning. Skeet was 95-ish and played with the band until he was around 92. What a trooper he was, and he had such a sweet disposition.

Another thing Small Town has every year is a Memorial Day service at the main cemetery in town. The marching band plays, there are guest speakers, kids recite the Gettysburg Address and In Flanders Field, and the VFW Post provides the 21-gun salute and TAPS. For years, Skeet played TAPS so sweetly, first toward us and then turning to play away from us. I cried a little each time he played because I always felt it might be his last year, he seemed so feeble as he turned to play the echo. And I would be surprised to see him the next year ready with his trumpet. But about two years ago, Skeet finally had to give it up. It was a sad day at the cemetery.

We had a moment of silence this evening and then dedicated our concert to Skeet. It was a nice gesture, if only we had played better—this was not our best performance, as fun as it was. Personally, I played fairly well but managed to cover my white band shirt with slide grease and then doused myself with a diet Pepsi before I made it to my car, so I was happy to go home and forget the whole event.

I won’t forget Skeet, though. And I’ll tell you, whoever plays TAPS at his funeral better know something about this man and better do his memory justice. He was quite a trumpet player, starting out with big bands in the 1930s and then playing in a military band during WWII.

To give you some idea what kind of man we've lost, here is the proclamation our state representative declared a few years ago:

• Whereas, Raymond ``Skeet'' Botdorf was a member of the Army Band Corps; and
• Whereas, he earned a Bronze Star for capturing a Nazi Prison Officer who tried to escape from a prison camp in Czechoslovakia; and
• Whereas, Raymond ``Skeet'' Botdorf is a member of the VFW Post 63 in Dover, Ohio; and
• Whereas, he plays TAPS for an average of 100 funerals a year; and
• Whereas, Raymond ``Skeet'' Botdorf has honored 3,000 veterans by playing TAPS at their funerals; and
• Whereas, Raymond ``Skeet'' Botdorf is saluted for his service and dedication;
• now, therefore, be it Resolved that along with his friends, family, and the residents of the 18th Congressional District, I commend and thank Raymond ``Skeet'' Botdorf for his contributions to his community and country.

Raymond "Skeet" Botdorf
 Photos by Ann Swinderman.


dive said...

A life well lived, Robyn.
I remember you writing before about Skeet's Taps. He'll be sadly missed but remembered with fondness. What more could anyone ask from life?

Katie Martins said...

no! this is so sad.