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Bandstand dedicated to Ron PRILL, longtime musician -- 2013


Posted By: Joey Stark
Date: 8/6/2013 at 22:56:43

"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Front Page and Page 6

Bandstand dedicated to Ron PRILL
By Staci Ann Wilson Wright
Ledger staff writer

Lifelong Fairfield resident Ron PRILL received a standing ovation Tuesday night at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts after having the bandstand in Central Park dedicated to and named after him.

Jim Edgeton, Fairfield High School instrumental music instructor and current director of the Fairfield Municipal Band, and Gerry Runyon spearheaded the dedication to PRILL, honoring him for bringing music to the city of Fairfield for more than 65 years.

PRILL was an instrumental music instructor in the Fairfield Community School District for 36 years. He served in the 34th Army Band for 44 years and was Commander for the last 20 of those. When the 34th Army Band could no longer play concerts in Central Park, it was PRILL who organized the Fairfield Municipal Band in 1987 so summer concerts could continue. PRILL directed the municipal band for a few years before handing the reins to Jim Hafner; however, he continued to play with the municipal band.

"There is nobody who has performed in the bandstand as many times as Ron has," Edgeton said. "The dedication seemed only fitting."

Prior to the dedication ceremony, the municipal band played "Fanfare for the Unsung Hero." The song, assistant municipal band director Mary Andersen said, was a musical thank you to those who work behind the scenes to improve their communities.

"It was very appropriate considering what we were there to commemorate," Edgeton said.

Speaking at the ceremony about PRILL's lifetime of accomplishments were former state representative Leonard Boswell, retired 1st. Sgt. Don Samuelson, Col. Todd Jacobus, Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy and Edgeton.

Boswell said when he was notified that the dedication would be taking place he thought it was "very, very appropriate."

"Mr. PRILL, what you have added, what you have personally added to our lives, is a very special thing," Boswell said.

Samuelson said without the guidance of PRILL, he would have never become a 1st Sgt. in the Army National Guard. When he learned Samuelson would be named Commander, PRILL gave him some important advice.

"Ron said, 'You're going to find there are decisions made... you're going to find there's a line in the sand and you're the only one on one side of it. Sometimes, it gets lonely at the top.'" said Samuelson.

"Well, Mr. PRILL, it's not lonely tonight," Samuelson said, pausing as the large crowd of friends, family, former students, teachers and military personnel burst into applause.

"Mr. PRILL, as my Commander, I salute you. As my friend, I congratulate you," Samuelson said.

When Jacobus took the podium, he asked, "What type of person does a community recognize?"

"It's this kind of person right here," he said, gesturing toward PRILL.

Jacobus said he met PRILL in 1992 and over the years he often noted that when people asked for PRILL's advice and he gave it, they listened.

Characterizing PRILL as "an example of how one person can make an incredible difference," Jacobus said, "I look at him and I think, 'How can we all be a little bit like him?'"

Malloy said sometimes the best things happen when they happen spontaneously and quickly, as the decision to dedicate the bandstand to PRILL had. Runyon approached Malloy soon after the municipal band concert June 25 about the possibility of dedicating the bandstand to PRILL. On July 22, the city council approved the proposal.

"Ron PRILL is one of those people who created a Fairfield tradition. Many times we can take for granted the roots of something we all enjoy," Malloy said.

After Malloy read the mayoral proclamation naming the bandstand after him, a visibly touched and humbled PRILL came forward.

"You have all meant so much to me over the years," PRILL said. He paused before adding, "We have to do a march!"

Then, as he had so many times before, PRILL conducted the municipal band in a march.

"[Conducting] is always great. It's a wonderful feeling. Once you get to do it, you never forget it," PRILL said. "And tonight, I thought the band played as well as I'd ever heard them."

PRILL joined the Army National Guard in 1948 and began playing in the 34th Army Band. He was just 16 years old. He met and married his late wife Betty in 1955.

A year later, Dillon Lowell recruited PRILL to begin teaching instrumental music in the Fairfield Community School District. PRILL's first post as an educator was in what is now the Pence Elementary Building.

"Fairfield was just an independent school district back then," PRILL said. "We didn't have all these little towns in with us."

In 1972, PRILL was promoted to Commander/Conductor of the 34th Army Band. He retired from his post in 1992, the same year he also retired from teaching.

"I had the two best careers a guy could ever have," PRILL said. "I was very lucky."

PRILL said the best thing about conducting the 34th Army band "was always the musicians." The best thing about teaching, he said, was "always the kids."

"There's no doubt about that," said PRILL.

"The kids were always 15 or 16," he continued. "Guess who it was who changed? Me. First I was 30. Then I was 40. Then I was 50. But the kids, the kids were always 15 or 16. They were always the same, keeping me young."

Of his decision to retire from teaching, PRILL said, "One day I just looked in the mirror and I said, 'Who is this old man I'm looking at? I have no idea who he is.' That's when I decided to retire and have some fun.'"

Retirement only generated more time for PRILL to spend in service to others, his daughter Linda MENCH said.

"He -- and my mom, too before she died -- has always been in service to others," MENCH said.

Although MENCH and her husband tried many times to convince him to leave Fairfield and live with them, PRILL wanted no part of it.

"He refused every time," she said. "Dad feels such a great dedication to this city. He really feels he owes something to this community. There's no way he could ever leave it."

When asked what advice he would give to a young person just starting out in life, PRILL said, "I'd say try to do the best you can. What else can you do? I spent a lifetime trying to do things right, although it didn't always turn out that way."

"Dad didn't think he deserved this honor and we all said, 'Yes, you do,'" MENCH said. "He was very nervous about it beforehand."

After the dedication, PRILL was playing a different tune.

"I thought it was wonderful. It was marvelous. How could you ask for anything better?"


Note: Ron PRILL is a son of the late Orville PRILL and his first wife Elvira RUDI; Orville, together with his second wife Mary BARNES GUNNARSON, has provided much of the genealogical information that appears on the Jefferson County message boards and on the county's Iowa GenWeb website.

In the photo at the end of this article -- "After Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy read a proclamation naming the bandstand in Central Park after him, a visibly touched and humbled Ron PRILL came forward. After expressing his gratitude to the packed house, PRILL conducted the municipal band in a march, just as he had so many times before. PRILL said conducting is a feeling "you never forget." PRILL has been making music in Fairfield for more than 65 years."


"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Front Page

Bandstand dedicated to Ron PRILL
by Andy Hallman,
Ledger news editor

A plaque dedicating the Central Park bandstand to Ron PRILL was unveiled at a ceremony Tuesday night during the final municipal band concert of the year.

The Fairfield City Council renamed the bandstand after PRILL in 2013, and now this plaque that will be mounted on the bandstand completes the renaming process.

Fairfield Municipal Band director Jim Edgeton told the crowd of PRILL's accomplishments. PRILL was the Fairfield High School band director and director of the 34th Army Band for many years.

After Edgeton was finished, municipal band member and long-time friend of PRILL's, Gerry Runyon, pulled back the sheet that was covering the plaque on an easel. Edgeton said Kent Whitney made the plaque and that he would mount it in the near future.

A few people who played for PRILL in the 34th Army Band spoke at the dedication. Chief Warrant Officer James Goodwin of Runnells played under him for nine years, and went on to conduct the 34th Army Band himself. In 1984, Goodwin approached PRILL out of the blue at a concert in Boone, asking if he could join the band.

"We don't need any more saxophone players," PRILL said to him at the time.

Goodwin reapplied to join the band the next year and was accepted. He went on to become a section leader for saxophones.

"Ron was a very busy man because he was directing the National Guard band and high school band at the same time," Goodwin said in an interview. "He was good at choosing music for the audience, and he was good at keeping the troops in line. He was also very approachable if you had a problem."

Goodwin told the crowd to remember PRILL not just as a good band director, but as a skilled musician, too.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Crile spoke about his memories of PRILL, too. He asked the audience to contemplate how many times PRILL must have gone on that stage. PRILL either directed or performed on the Central Park bandstand for more than 50 years.

Municipal band member Claudia Sloat read a letter from PRILL's daughters, Nancy PRILL LEATHERS and Linda PRILL MENCH, who could not attend the ceremony. The letter spoke to PRILL's unwavering service to church, community and country, and how the family was pleased PRILL was being honored in this way.

Sloat was an appropriate choice to read the letter. Though only 21 years old, she had come to know PRILL well because they both played trombone in the municipal band.

Late in life, PRILL's hearing faded. Edgeton tasked Sloat with being PRILL's "ears," repeating to him what Edgeton had announced to the rest of the band.

Sloat joined the municipal band at age 13. She'll never forget what PRILL told her on the first day.

"'I'm going to make you the best trombone player you're ever going to be,'" Sloat recalled him telling her. "He taught me a lot about confidence. I had to repeat myself often, and that taught me the value of patience when working with the older community."

Sloat said her experience with PRILL has made her consider a career in geriatrics.

She said PRILL spoke fondly of his wife, Betty, who died in 2001.

"Every Valentine's Day, he would sing 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' to her," she said.

Though she didn't know it at the time, it was PRILL who got her interested in the trombone. Sloat performed as one of the orphans in a production of "Oliver." PRILL played trombone in the pit orchestra. For one of the songs, he covered the bell of his horn with a plunger head, creating a distinct sound.

"Hearing that made me think of the trombone as a cool instrument," Sloat said.

Her sister, Madeline Thomas, has been playing the flute for 17 years, and for 10 years in the municipal band. She keeps coming back because she loves to play for Edgeton, one of her "favorite people in the whole world."

"He is incredibly talented and kind. There's always something to learn from him," she said.

Thomas said Edgeton inspired her to become a teacher. After earning her degree, she moved back to Fairfield to be in the same music department as him.

Steve Bekel was one of the original members of the municipal band and an alumnus of the 34th Army Band. He played under PRILL in both high school and later in the municipal band.

"He got me started on the trombone in fourth grade," Bekel said. "Then when I was a senior, he talked me into joining the 34th Army Band. I shipped out to basic training four days after graduating high school."

Bekel said PRILL could be strict when necessary, but he also knew when to pat someone on the back after a job well done.

Jim Wotherspoon has been in the municipal band since 1995. His primary instrument is euphonium, but he played tuba for Tuesday's concert.

"I played the euphonium through college, and occasionally switched to the tuba," he said.

Wotherspoon also knows trombone, and played the instrument during the Fairfield All-Star Jazz Band's performance earlier that night.

"My dad had a music store, and I was always tinkering with the instruments," he said.

Wotherspoon remembers PRILL as a "super friendly" man who was helpful to everyone.

"He was especially encouraging to young players," Wotherspoon said. "I sat next to him in the pit orchestra at the Sondheim. Even after his skills diminished, he was still a better musician than many others."

Wotherspoon said the municipal band has remained in good hands under Edgeton's direction.

"Bands take on the personality of their directors," he said. "Jim is easy-going and rehearses us well. You need to have good sight-reading skills in this band because we rehearse only once a week. This is a unique fraternity, and a great place to develop friendships. I know a lot of people in surrounding towns that I've met through performing in bands."

Chuck Drobny was an unlikely face to see on the bandstand. Drobny played trombone in high school, but after his graduation, he put his horn away and didn't touch one again for 42 years.

Edgeton encourage Drobny to give the trombone another shot. Drobny bought a plastic trombone after Edgeton agreed to give him lessons.

"Chuck had great fundamentals; he just needed to get back in shape," Edgeton said.

With a little practice, Drobny was back up to speed. He told Edgeton he plans to play in the band again next year.

*Transcribed for genealogy purposes; I have no relation to the person(s) mentioned.

Note: Ron PRILL passed away in September, 2013, not long after having the bandstand named for him, and unfortunately was never able to see the plaque installed in 2017.

Dedication Plaque for the Bandstand - click here

Jefferson Documents maintained by Joey Stark.
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