Saturday, January 5, 2013

Farewell to a Crackerjack Band Supporter

It’s not my intention to write only about funerals in my 2013 blog posts, but I would be remiss if I didn’t note the recent passing of a good friend of the My Musical Family project: Dick Egerman.

Richard J. Egerman, 86, of St. Cloud, Minn., died Dec. 28 at the St. Cloud Hospital, and his funeral is scheduled for Monday at 12:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in St. Cloud (you can read his obituary here). His sister, Vonnie Rader, is a longtime family friend whom I’ve known since I was a baby, but I didn’t meet Dick until a couple of years ago at a St. Cloud Municipal Band Concert – not an unexpected place to find someone who had been a loyal band supporter since childhood.

On Thursday nights, Dad would give up his garden and take all us kids to the band concert, Dick told me and my parents in August 2010 over cups of coffee at the Perkins in St. Cloud. Sometimes on a cold night we would take a blanket along.

Dick (on the left and wearing a white shirt) at a band concert in Barden Park in summer 2010.
Dick was one of eight children, and his family used to run the popcorn wagon in Barden Park during band concerts. Dick said it was his older brother Bob who started the business; he bought a used wagon and Dick and his dad helped fix it up. The corn popper was operated by gas, and only two people could fit behind the counter (we have a similar popcorn wagon here in Northfield; the Northfield Senior Center operates it in Bridge Square during the summers).

They took the wagon to concerts every Thursday evening for about a dozen years; they also took it to Lake George Park in the winter months and sold lots of candy.

Although he had friends who played in the St. Cloud Municipal Boys Band under G. Oliver Riggs, Dick never played in it himself, or in the band at St. Cloud Tech, where he attended high school. I told him horn players run in my family, and he said, ‘They should,’ Dick said, referring to Erwin Hertz, the Tech band director.

As you can probably tell, Dick had a great, self-deprecating sense of humor. This also was evident in the email he sent my dad in November 2011, in which he surprised us with a story we had never heard – and one that I still hope to pursue further – about how G. Oliver taught music to a group of nuns known as the Benevolent Beethoven Benedictines [I wrote about this in a December 2011 blog post, Sister Act: the G. Oliver Version].

Dick had a credible source for this story: his mother, Marie, who played tuba in the group but left the order after a short time, and later married and had a family.

“Family lore reports Mother left for three reasons: female tuba players were not respected on the same high level as trumpets and other horn players; Mother had no rhythm; and she did not look good in black,” he wrote.

Dick claimed to have inherited his mom’s lack of rhythm. My first serious date said I had as much rhythm as an 18 dollar cow, he joked. The boys band told me to take up cribbage.” 

At the Perkins meeting, Dick also was able to elaborate on the story that former boys’ band member Louis Dinndorf once told my dad. Eight-year-old Louis desperately wanted to join the band, even though he wasn’t old enough, so he asked G. Oliver and G. Oliver had said, If you can carry your horn, you can play.

What Dick added to the story was this: Louis was not much bigger than his tenor sax, so in warmer weather he would put it in a wagon and take it to band practice that way, and in the winters, he carried it on his sled.

I know Dick will be sorely missed by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and siblings. As it says in his obituary, he was a generous person with a big heart who always willing to lend a helping hand. I am grateful to him for sharing his time and band memories with me.

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