A Sad Weekend for the Band

by - Tuesday, September 24, 2013



This week was a really rough one back home, because two people who were so important to the town, and especially for city band, passed away after long battles with really awful illnesses. I think my brother summed up many of my feelings on the situation really well:

This weekend I was saddened to hear of the passing of both Roland Davis and Doreen Frye. Growing up in Franklin, the one thing I knew right from the start was the people of the town were not a community, they were a family. This weekend we lost two people instrumental in making it that way. In my oldest memories of Roland I knew, without knowing why, that this was a man to respect. A man of greatness and weight to the importance of the town and the people I loved in it. With Doreen, she was a pure mother hen. We were all her children and deserved her love unquestionably in her eyes. There are no words on this Earth that properly hold the weight of what these two amazing people mean and the loss that we now must endure. To the families, I can only express my gratitude at what you repaid them for their commitment to the town in the ways that only the bond of blood can provide. My thoughts go to you during these times. I thank you Roland and Doreen for everything you did for the people of our town and wish you safe travels. You will never be forgotten.

What struck me about Thomas's description of Roland is the stress he put on how respected this man was. I am absolutely sure this is true, and that Roland warranted a lot of respect for his many contributions to the town. He seemed to be a solid, somewhat solemn figure, holding things together. He did a lot for the place and the community, taking care of things that most people took for granted. He was not only devoted to the Silver Cornet Band, but took care of the park and the bandstand for everything that happened there. It was in this context that I got to know him well, and he was an important person to me, especially as a teen. I know so many people must be mourning him this week (most of whom were much closer to him than I was), but as I cannot make it back for the funeral, I am going to tell my story here. 

What I liked about Roland was that the more you got to know him, the less he seemed like the stoic figure he seemed to be. Though he seemed to be on task, taking care of business, unlikely to crack a smile, he had a sparkle in his eye that was pure mischeviousness and hilarity. I spent hours and hours, sometimes listening to God-awful music, popping popcorn (with Lucie, then KD) and hanging out with Roland, Jim Ivell, and Keith. Seeing how committed and reliable they were made me want to be equally consistent and reliable, which I still try to keep up with. We passed the time mostly by laughing, and his dry, very sassy humor always made me laugh. He was also a grown-up who I could joke with and who found me funny, and that means a lot when you are young (because so often you feel unheard). I am willing to wager that accounts for a lot of his popularity with the students he helped in the band and stage crew. 

He was often downright mean in his humor, they made fun of us all the time, but we could dish it back, and I loved that. Though I love hearing that Silver Cornet March, in some ways I preferred the Thursdays where Roland and Jim kept us company, so we weren't just being mean by ourselves.

As much as they made jokes on our (and everyone else's) behalf, Roland also made me feel listened to and valued. Popping popcorn is no glamorous job, but they made sure we had shirts (ok, sometimes we had to complain to get them) and he even put our initials on the machine (they are still there). I felt like he appreciated my opinion, treated me mostly like a person (not a kid), and only thought I was an idiot the majority of the time. He was a bit of a kid posing as an adult (his giant collection of toy trains that I think he inherited attest to that).It was during my time hanging out with them that I figured out I should really only hang out with crabby old men, because they suit me. I also learned how important it is to just talk to people like people, no matter what their age.  

So, I guess my brother wasn't wrong when he said Roland was someone who was a respected pillar of the community, but I feel like that what I will and have missed the most was that wink behind the respectable, not often smiling face. I always felt in on the joke when I was with him.He was very kind and encouraging to me, and I will always remember some of our conversations.

When I ended my illustrious career as a popette to move up into the glamorous world of King's waitressing, I really missed spending that time with them, especially Roland. When I had Thursday nights off, I liked to visit the park. Even if I only saw him for a minute, I was always happy to give him a hug and still see that mischievous glint in his eye. He was just the kind of person you felt happy to see. As his health began to deteriorate from Parkinson's, it became harder and harder to see this glint behind the sternness of his general face (I think it is the mustache) and the sadness of his eyes, and I think many people, especially those in the band, really suffered as his involvement lessened. When someone dies who has been sick a long time, people talk about it as if it should be easier, because we can understand it as being merciful toward someone who suffered. I understand that instinct, but I think it can be even more difficult, because you don't know how to say a proper goodbye.


I think in the next 24 hours, a lot of stories that sound a whole lot like mine will be told, as people fondly remember Roland and the effect that he had on their life. Last year, a bench was built in his honor in the park and the band had a (really snowy?) christening. He is a person that really made a big difference in our small town, and so many people will feel his absence for a long time. As Thomas said, safe travels.

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