Still More Reflections – 2015
2015 is about to fade away as 2016 awaits a cue to take the stage. It has been a year of unsurmountable highs and a year of unavoidable lows. The year began as I was recuperating from my 2nd major surgery in two years, this time dealing with Cancer. As my body began to heal, it was impossible to not wonder about the future of my health and how successful the surgery was. The City of Hope had provided the most professional service anyone could ever hope for and the surgeon, his staff and the cardiologist who had helped in preparation for the December surgery were as good as any medical staff one could imagine. The annoyance of dealing with drains, healing of wounds and frequent visits of home care nurses seemed to be a lot for this old guy to deal with. I needed a diversion, so, once again music came to the fore.
In January and February I attended the JEN convention in San Diego, the NAMM show in Anaheim and the CASMEC convention in Fresno. My physicians thought that it was probably not the greatest idea to do all of that beginning 22 days after major surgery, but those of you who know me… At JEN, Nancy and I attended some terrific clinics and concerts, had terrific meals, renewed old friendships with some terrific musicians, had terrific meals, enjoyed a magnificent view from our suite, had terrific meals, enjoyed seeing my fellow CAJ board members and had terrific meals!
The NAMM show in Anaheim was even bigger than the previous year. As usual it occurred the same week as my SDJW reading session so I attended on Friday, used Saturday to load the van for the Sunday read and rehearsed on Sunday. There was no time to think about bags, wounds or any of the physical stuff.
The drive to Fresno in February was long and boring, but the CASMEC convention was enjoyable. I enjoyed the appearance of the Canadian Brass and several other fine ensembles as well as meeting with former students, colleagues and professionals. I enjoyed working the CAJ booth, attending the clinics, visiting other booths and having terrific meals! I was sorry that future CASMEC conventions would move to San Jose…pretty long drive for this old man.
In March, I was so impatient to play my instruments that I decided to buy a new euphonium and I did. I got a terrific deal on a “like new” (it really was) King. From the first day, it played like a dream…I didn’t! This was going to take awhile. Fortunately I had my SDJW reading sessions to direct and if I could get help with the equipment, I could play my synth with the band. That worked out OK. Also in March a friend and former colleague lost his wife due to a fall and broken hip that led to her death. I felt awful for the family…in April, my mother fell at church and broke her hip. The drama had begun…
My brother David and I had to “take over” decision making from a lady who had “ruled the roost” for many decades…this was not going to be fun. We managed to line up a surgeon, get her through the surgery, and sit with her as she began to heal…slowly and painfully. We forced the issue when she could no longer stay at the hospital and needed to spend some time…lots of time…in a convalescent facility. This was not going to be pleasant. Mother felt abandoned, ignored and without any power over her own decisions. In the meantime, David and I took care of business, bills, legal issues, and all of the stuff that begins to snowball when a parent suddenly needs daily care. David was spending his “free time” when not teaching, working the legal issues and I was commuting several times a week from San Dimas to Long Beach to take care of financial issues and medical issues. Mother was slowly healing and her memory was beginning to show increased signs of fading and as she realized her memory loss, her sense of abandonment became more of a concern.
As the Spring arrived, I found that my chops were returning so I resumed my weekly brass ensemble rehearsals and in addition began rehearsing with the Covina Concert Band. Monday suddenly became the busiest and most musical day of the week. During the Summer, the concert band played several concerts in Covina, San Dimas, Forrest Lawn, Poway and Huntington Beach. The euphonium parts were challenging and great fun to perform. In addition, my brass ensemble and the SDJW big band were reading challenging literature on a regular basis. I felt like a musician again. I also decided to write one arrangement per month for the big band. That lasted a few months but was fun while it lasted. I had also been asked to arrange the opening number for the dedication of the new BUSD Performing Arts Center. I did an arrangement of show tunes to be performed by SDHS and BHS vocal and instrumental music students. The performance went well and I felt like a musician again.
Eventually Medicare would no longer cover mother’s care so David and I needed to find an alternative place for mother to live. She could not, at this time, live alone so we looked in earnest for a very good, yet affordable, alternative. We found one in Anaheim and set her up…once again, she was not pleased. We managed to get mother’s finances set and we helped her sell the house. That set her up, and with the help of a terrific realtor, we had a quick escrow and a successful sale. Mother was set financially if not personally. Through all of this, I am so pleased that my wife was supportive, helpful and loving, no matter the circumstances or my mood. She’s a good lady.
It appeared that the Fall was going to settle down. Mother was feeling better. I was playing again. The brass ensemble and the SDJW were going great guns. The Covina Concert Band was fun and I was playing well. David got sick…very sick. He had been having heart pain for some time and was now spending a second stint in the hospital. He had great care, but things were pretty serious. This was going to take awhile, and it did. Eventually he was strong enough to leave the hospital…good news. He was not yet 65 to get his Medicare in effect…bad news. David needed a pacemaker and had three months before Medicare kicked in.
As Winter approached, I had a feeling that much of a very eventful and somewhat troublesome year was finally normalizing. I had been asked to assist a middle school jazz program once a week. I was organizing my brass ensemble for the yearly Nestico program for the San Dimas Christmas Tree Lighting. My SDJW Reading Band was playing a new set every rehearsal. My brass ensemble was reading new literature every week. I had a new job with CAJ and I had managed to make it through the year without any health issues. My Cancer was “undetectable” throughout the year. My RA seemed to be under control. Nancy and I were enjoying retirement and having some down time. We even made it to Vegas!
So here we are on the last night of 2015. David has had his pacemaker surgery. Mother had a pleasant day with all of us on Christmas Day. Nancy and I are essentially over our week of flu. I have heard the All-State jazz trombone auditions this week. The music for next month’s reading session has arrived and will soon be numbered. Cody and Kitty seem content and well fed. The Christmas decorations are down and loaded in the SUV to go into storage. The trains still run. The computers all work. I have close to 2,000 wonderful FB friends (met some new ones this month). Life is good and next year is Leap-year. That gives us all an extra day to enjoy. God bless you all and have a very Happy New Year!
It is New Year’s Eve, 2014, and Nancy and I have are blessed to have this roller coaster of a year behind us. She has been through much this year with the loss of her father, the resulting business obligations, and now, the dedicated support she has offered me during that past three months. She is indeed a remarkable and loving woman.
The year began with me regaining some strength after a severe case of Acute Pancreatitis and the subsequent removal of my gall bladder. By January, I was able to attend NAMM and visit with some musician friends. I had also received word of a significant honor awarded me by the California Alliance for Jazz, an organization that supports and provides for Jazz Education in California. The election to the CAJ Hall of Fame was certainly an unexpected pleasure which placed me in the company of some very talented Jazz educators, performers and composers.
In February, I received the award at the CASMEC convention in Fresno, CA. Nancy was unable to attend as she was very ill with flu-like symptoms. I had the opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented Jazz Educators and eventually I was appointed to the CAJ board as “webmaster” which is interesting since I have very limited experience with web design and maintenance. The next several weeks I spent “learning” about WordPress and web design!
Since my retirement, I have had three main activities to occupy my time: Directing the San Dimas Jazz Workshop Reading Band, directing and performing in the San Dimas Brass Ensemble, and playing trains. In March, my dear friend Tim Whalen came to visit in our home as he often does on Spring Break and again in November. It was always an opportunity to play, talk, tell lies, and generally have fun with our train hobby. We had been collecting, building, trading but mostly buying trains for over forty years since the early days of our teaching careers as roommates in Albuquerque. He brought me some miniature die cast vehicles, and I gave him some Lionel rolling stock. We had this tradition ever since I moved to California in 1977. It just so happened that this trip fell on the weekend of my SDJW Reading Band rehearsal and Tim attended with me taking several wonderful pictures during the afternoon. It was a glorious time together.
April and May were mostly un-eventfull and my routine was mostly one of web maintenance, arranging, rehearsing and performing. The brass ensemble was to have performed for Easter in Covina, but on good Friday, Nancy’s father passed away leaving us to help make arrangements, take care of business and generally try to cope with the loss of a good man. Nancy took up the challenge of seeing to her father’s affairs and for the next several weeks she was involved with that task.
In June, it became apparent that I needed to see to some more health issues as my PSA count was elevated. During my visits to the doctor’s office, it was obvious that I should have a biopsy and see what was going on. Nancy and I took a short trip along route 66 since we had never visited with Tim at his home in Albuquerque. The road trip took us to Flagstaff, AZ where we found a couple of terrific spots to eat. I took tons of photos all along the mother road. Although Tim still had duties as principal of the small Catholic School, we had a great visit in the evenings and had a chance to visit some of my old “stomping grounds”. A highlight of the week was a visit with several of my former Hoover Middle School band members. When I left town in 1977, they were twelve and thirteen years old. This year they were in their early fifties. It was so good to see them. I had a chance to tag up with Tony Lujan, a former trumpet student who has become quite the trumpet artist over the last 40 some years. That meeting at Tim’s house was most gratifying. I did not know that the next day would be the last time I would see Tim alive!
July and August were devoted to band business, personal business, medical business and generally too much business!
In early September, I called Tim to begin planning for his trip to our home which was to occur in November for the big train meet in Ontario. Everything was set for the trip, and we even had a chance to begin planning a road trip to Pennsylvania to be taken in 2015. WE would finally take that trip to York, Pennsylvania to attend the largest train meet in the world! What a glorious time we would have. In the meantime, I had that biopsy and it was determined that I indeed did have Cancer. Something needed to happen before any plans could be finalized. The 50th reunion of my Highland High School graduating class was to take place and I decided at the last minute to not drive back for the reunion. Then I got the phone call. My dear friend Tim had had a heart attack and was not expected to live. Nancy and I drove back to New Mexico where I had the honor of being a pall bearer at his funeral. We stayed overnight in his home one last time and I gave his railroad one last run.
October and November were centered around preparing for Cancer surgery and recuperating. I was not allowed to have the surgery until I could be cleared by a cardiologist, so several weeks of tests at the City of Hope along with an angiogram in Arcadia finally cleared me to schedule the surgery. I needed to work around my SDJW and SDBE performances and rehearsals so the surgery was scheduled for December 22nd. That enabled me to conduct my brass choir on the 6th, have my big band rehearse on the 21st and perform the Hallelujah Chorus on the 21st. I did not attend the November train meet. It would not have been the same.
As the year comes to a close, I can once again reflect on the many things Nancy and I have lost…family, friends, former students, and fine musicians who have passed on…health issues that are on going for us both…and activities, trips, getaways and celebrations unfulfilled, but there are also the good things that remain…
I am lucky and blessed to have a wonderful wife who loves and cares for me. I still have an old “Italian” mother who, while declining, is still a mother at 91. A multi talented brother who, while having health issues of his own, still manages to teach, preach, perform and compose at a very high level. Nancy has a sister and a niece that give her some sense of family as well. I am so lucky to have my SDJW and SDBE professional musicians as friends and to have the CAJ board and the San Dimas Senior Commission Board members as colleagues. I have well over 1300 Facebook friends who support me online daily, most of them former students from New Mexico and California. I have the renewed drive to arrange and compose musical compositions for my music groups and my website. Today, I received a phone call from a friend from my UNM years. I had not spoken to him in 45 years. We talked today for two hours by phone. It was a great afternoon of remembering good times. The year has been a roller coaster of emotion, physical challenges and activities, but I can once again state without reservation…Life is good. God bless and have a tremendous 2015!
I am staying in this very warm September day. I have spent a great deal of time online looking at my pictures, reading posts to my web pages, and adding friends to my Facebook account. This time has allowed me to review and remember times and people over the last 54 years.
Last weekend was the 50th reunion of the Highland High School class of ’64. I was a member of that class of proud “Hornets”, and we had a terrific senior year. Highlights of the year for me included some wonderful personal accomplishments. In the fall, I auditioned for and made the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the great Dr. Kurt Frederich. Shortly after that I also auditioned for All-State and was placed in the New Mexico All-State Concert Band. During the year, in addition to these two prestigious groups, I played trumpet in the HHS Symphonic Band, the HHS Symphony Orchestra, the pit orchestra for the musical “Pajama Game” and the HHS Dance Band. Perhaps the highest musical honor was when my band director, Wallace Cleaveland placed me in charge of the brass sextet and entered us in the District 7 Regional and State Solo and Ensemble Festivals where we won superior ratings and medals of excellence for our performance of “Symphony for Brass” by Victor Ewald. It was with great sadness that I was unable to attend our 50th reunion due to other commitments.
Ironically, the day after the reunion closed, Nancy and I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico after receiving word of the death of my very close friend Tim Whalen. I was asked to be a pallbearer which I was honored to do. It was a sad three days of driving over 1,000 miles, staying in Tim’s home overnight, meeting with the family again after several years and meeting many of Tim’s friends and acquaintances. My dear wife Nancy was supportive and made it all work. I otherwise might not have had the energy to drive it alone.
Nancy lost her father on Good Friday of this year, and has been actively involved in organizing the sale of his home, the organization of his personal records, working at a yard sale in Simi with her sister to sell off furniture and other memorabilia and finally filing all of her mother’s vintage sheet music…over 1,000 titles.
I have recently been dealing with additional physical challenges, and am presently awaiting some tests that will determine how I will proceed physically in the future. I mention all of this to tell you about how lucky I am to have lived a wonderful life as student, teacher, player, composer, arranger, commissioner, director and husband. I look forward to many more years of accomplishments as I try to age as gracefully as possible. Let me tell you about it.
As a student, I was privileged to attend Highland High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was at that time one of the top rated scholastic institutions in the nation. It had top notch students, a terrific faculty, outstanding athletic and arts departments and many students who went on to become “famous” folks. I graduated 104th out of a class of 749 seniors with a 3.68 GPA.
I was fortunate after graduation to attend the University of New Mexico for my B.M.E. degree and graduated with a 3.88 GPA in 1968. During those four years, I participated in several ensembles including Orchestra, Band, Jazz Band, University Chorus, Brass Choir, Brass Quintet and ran my own Jazz group, the Ed Wolfe Trio. In the Summer of 1968, I began work on my M.M. degree in composition and was quickly hired by the Albuquerque Public Schools to teach instrumental music at Grant Jr. High School. I was tenured at Grant and during that tenure, I also completed my M.M. degree with the publication of my masters thesis “Caverna,” a musical tour of the fabulous Carlsbad Caverns in Southern New Mexico.
During my tenure at Grant Jr. High School, I was able to establish a high powered Junior High band program that grew from 45 students to over 200 during the years from 1969-1974. My concert bands and jazz bands received the highest ratings at festival and some of my students even informally attended summer band, transfer band and music theory classes when other kids were on vacation. Those were great years with terrific kids! It was during those years that I was elected to the NMMEA vice-president job presiding over District 7 festivals. I also became a state officer in N.A.J.E.
When my musical mentor, Fenton Katz left Manzano High School, I was asked to apply to replace him. I had sent some terrific players to Manzano during the previous four years, and many of them were still in the program when I arrived. This was my first High School experience and I made some rookie blunders, but during that year we placed 38 students into All-State and performed several concerts with the wind ensemble and symphonic band as well as running performances with two jazz ensembles. We also worked with the orchestra and choral department to produce the musical West Side Story (using the original book) in the round. It was a hectic year, and at it’s conclusion, I decided to move on to a terrific middle school in the Northeast Heights.
During the fall of 1975 through the Spring of 1977, I was most fortunate to direct the instrumental music ensembles at Hoover Middle School. Hoover fed Eldorado High School, a musical powerhouse under the direction of symphony trumpet artist Ron Lipka. I took to the job immediately. I inherited sweet kids who were hungry to learn everything I knew about music. The program was not too large but was musically competent when I arrived. The previous band director, Wayne Sharp was the principal horn player in the symphony and the Hoover kids had a nice start. I started a jazz program to supplement the concert bands, and had my first taste of teaching string orchestra. The orchestra kids were terrific and readily accepted this “bandman” as their teacher and friend. By the end of that first year, the Hoover Music Department was definitely on Albuquerque’s musical “map” and by the end of the 2nd year, it was the premier middle school program in the city achieving superior ratings at every festival and receiving a fabulous score of 97 at the West Mesa Jazz Festival…the 2nd highest score of the day. The highest score was achieved by the University of New Mexico Jazz Ensemble! It was while I was at Hoover that I also got involved with A.C.L.O.A., the Light Opera company in Albuquerque. I was so pleased to direct the pit orchestra for Jesus Christ Superstar and 1776. I also played trumpet in the pit for other shows including 1st trumpet on Most Happy Fella. Those were very happy years for me and I could have stayed at Hoover enjoying those little kids forever, but I didn’t. When I left my Hoover Kids, they were 12 and 13 years old. (When I saw them this June, they were in their early 50’s!)
I moved to California in the fall of 1977 to rejoin my family who had, by then, relocated to the LA area. After several interviews and a couple of offerings, I decided to take the job at San Dimas High School. I was into building programs and the San Dimas program was a mess! There were only 28 students on the roll sheets and ten of them were freshmen. The musical instruments were in complete disarray and many were piled in the middle of the room, some not in cases and most not secured in the cabinets. I decided that I was home. This was a program that needed guidance, and I was someone who needed a challenge. I was hired the week before band camp and had three days to prepare music, instruments, uniforms, folders, jazz literature and marching shows. I did not sleep. Some nights I did not go home. Well we got through the year. When our first rehearsal took place during band camp, the kids couldn’t even get through the Fight Song. We had to play an assembly the first week of school and our featured tune was “Work Song,” an easy jazz arrangement done by Pat Rhoads for his middle school band in Albuquerque. During the years between the fall of 1977 and the spring of 1985, the San Dimas Band program won over 100 awards for musical excellence, played in the Music Olympics, won the Reno Jazz Festival, and toured out of state. They were a joy to teach. I am proud to say that I am still friends with most of those kids, and many from the original 1977 band came to my retirement p!arty in 2008.
When Robin Snyder retired from Bonita High School in 1985, I was asked to move over to fill his position. Bonita was a Jazz powerhouse under Robin’s direction, but the marching band was nonexistent, and the concert band needed work. We had some good years during the four years I worked there, but although the room was actually a real band room (the room at SDHS had been a double wide portable with 8 foot ceilings), there was no air conditioning, the equipment was in bad shape, the library had tons of missing parts and the challenges were enormous. We had really great kids and they worked hard. Slowly the program began to take shape, but in 1989, we took a tour to San Diego with too few chaperones and “kids will be kids.” When we returned home, I did not feel like I had been supported by parents or administration, so I decided to move on. Thus began 11 wonderful years at Lone Hill Middle School feeding my old school, San Dimas High.
The Bonita Unified School District serves the cities of LaVerne and San Dimas. Bonita HS is in LaVerne and is fed by Ramona Middle School and 5 elementary schools. San Dimas HS is fed by Lone Hill Middle School and 3 elementary schools. While at Bonita, I taught at Ramona as well, and while at San Dimas, I taught at the 3 elementary schools as well. My assignment at Lone Hill originally was to teach Jazz and the elementary schools. The concert bands were under the direction of Barney Martinez. We team taught this way for a short time, but eventually Barney moved to the elementary programs full time which gave me the entire program at Lone Hill. I loved it! For the first time in my life, I had a full time all band position at one site, and the room actually was almost a real band room…with an office, practice rooms and storage. I must have died and gone to band director’s heaven! During those 11 wonderful years, the bands competed, recorded, premiered pieces, had guest soloists, toured the State of California, competed at the Reno Jazz Festival and at one time or another EVERY jazz festival in California. The program mushroomed to 4 concert bands, 2 jazz bands and volunteer classes in jazz combo, solo and ensembles, music theory and beginning composition! It was my little conservatory at Lone Hill and these were 11, 12 and 13 year olds. Everywhere we went, we had great ratings with all our groups and when combined with my wife’s choirs at the Heritage Music Festivals, we won several sweepstakes honors as well as individual awards. The Wolfe household was a happy one. One of the great honors we had at Lone Hill was to represent the State of California at the Festival of the States in Washington DC. We performed at several historical venues including in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I am proud to still be in contact with a large number of those great young players.
During the years from 1985 to 2000, the instrumental program at San Dimas High School had pulled back, and the dropout rate from my middle school to the high school was enormous! Something had to be done. When the job opened up, I was asked to be on the committee to hire a new director by then principal, Kristine Kulow. During that phone conversation, I, as an aside, asked her if she would like me to come back to the high school. She hired me on the spot, and when I returned to San Dimas High School, I took 67 freshmen with me!
My last few years of teaching at San Dimas High School were very interesting and rewarding. I told Kris that I would come back up for 6 years but I did not want to teach in that portable again. (I had begun to lose some hearing during the first 8 years in that room.) As luck would have it, the auto shop no longer had a program and had become a 60’x60’ storage room with a small storage room where parts were stored and a larger storage area for tools and spare parts. Kris went out of her way to renovate that monstrosity into a usable hall for my band program to re-grow. I started the year in the old room, but before the football season was over, we were able to move into the auto shop. It took better than a week to move everything in my pickup truck and band trailer, but we got it done. The room had two large bay doors, so we could pull right into the room to unload. That was a plus! We lost several days of rehearsal, but gained some space.
Since the band had grown to twice its size in one year, we now had three concert bands…a freshman band of 67 (with excellent balance), a concert band of 34 (with top heavy balance) and a wind ensemble of upperclassmen with a decent balance. We marched everyone on the field. We had to fabricate equipment for the drum line converting concert snares to marching snares for the freshmen, ordering bibbers and corp style shirts for the freshmen while the older kids got the marching uniforms. It was a challenge, but we got it done. Since all of those kids had gone through my middle school program, it was an easy transition to make for me and they offered no resistance. We re-grouped, re-built, upgraded and generally started over, and the kids were enthusiastic. The parents were supportive and raised funds left and right for equipment and accessories. The District and ASB gave us a huge loan to purchase new uniforms (and never asked for complete re-payment). That was a blessing. There was a one-time financial windfall from Sacramento which enabled us to order storage cabinets and equipment for the room. That also was a blessing. We grew, we improved, we toured and we won again. We had guest soloists, we toured to Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, Reno, Monterey, Colorado Springs, Seattle and our final tour was to Boston. Instead of giving Kris the 6 years I promised her, I stayed for 8. I was having a great time. Even after 38 years of teaching, I enjoyed going to work in the morning. I retired in 2008 feeling accomplished and ready for a slow down. Many of my former students attended my retirement party in the SDHS Gym. It was a great night. Slow down I did!
Shortly after retirement, we were walking our newly acquired dog. Our beloved Amber had died a year previously and we missed having her so much that we got what we thought was a black lab rescue. She wasn’t. Cody is an “American Pit Bull Terrier,” whatever that is. She is not as large as a lab, but she is strong as a horse and on those initial walks she would aggressively encounter everything on four legs…dogs, cats, horses and an occasional automobile! On one of these walks, she cut across me with her long leash and caused me to fall forward to the pavement losing several teeth and rearranging much of my face! After some time in the ER and several dental surgeries, I was outfitted with dentures. There went my trumpet playing future! I was so looking forward to re-forming my brass ensemble. I decided to try playing low brass and after several purchases, I was able to perform again on baritone and on Frumpet.
I spent the first few months of retirement composing music, writing articles, playing brass quintets and generally trying to keep busy. Nancy was still teaching daily, so I had to try to fill the day catching up on the things I had put on hold during my 38 year teaching career. I purchased new computer equipment and put a digital music studio together. I was contacted by a former colleague, Warren Gref who was conducting a chamber orchestra in Temecula. He was wondering if I had any works for chamber orchestra. I told him that I had a piece entitled “Teton Sketches.” It actually was not originally meant to be a chamber orchestra piece, but I was not going to pass up the opportunity to have a piece premiered so I set out to rework the piece into a chamber orchestra setting. I worked diligently during the spring and summer of 2008 and finished the work in time for Warren to rehearse it and perform it in September. The evening was a resounding success, and I felt really good about myself.
I worked with Terry Williams, a programmer in San Diego, to put together a website and helped him design the site www.edwolfemusic.com. I began reworking chamber music that I had written during my graduate work at UNM. Putting all those works on the computer was a lot of work, but proved to be worthwhile when it came time to copyright everything. My brother and I attended the ASCAP convention and I had the opportunity to meet some notable artists and performers. A highlight was meeting Alex Shapiro, a very talented young composer from the Seattle area and spending some time talking with the daughter of the esteemed conductor Arturo Toscanini.
Then some challenges began to occur…I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in December and was having some serious difficulty doing even simple actions…like walking! I found an excellent specialist in Long Beach and for several months spent some time commuting back and forth from San Dimas to Long Beach. The RA began to get under control and I began to feel better as the medication kicked in. Then, I got the call. The Bonita Unified School District wanted to hire me as a consultant to the music teachers.
That offer was a financial Godsend since I was not yet 65 and had not qualified for Medicare. The district allowed me to set my own hours, complete work on their schedule and have regular meetings with an assistant superintendent. The money was good and I was doing some good work for music education again. For the next three semesters, I had plenty to occupy my time. When the job came to an end, I again needed to find something to do. I applied for and became a Senior Citizen Commissioner for the City of San Dimas. One of my former band booster parents was the head of the San Dimas Parks and Recreation. We had worked together sponsoring the marching band competition during San Dimas Western Days. Now we were working again in support of our senior citizens. I have continued in that capacity to the present.
I missed being in front of a band! In 2011, I decided to put together a professional reading band and approached the Parks and Recreation department for a facility in which to rehearse. That was the beginning of the San Dimas Jazz Workshop Reading Band which is still meeting four years later. We have played the Music in the Park opening night twice and have had 40 rehearsals to date, meeting the third Sunday of every month.
In addition to the workshop, my brass ensemble meets every Monday afternoon reading different literature each week. We have performed many church functions at Christmas and Easter as well as special services. We have played on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and have continued on our 7th year to play for the San Dimas Christmas Tree Lighting in December.
Now that Nancy is also retired, we have done some traveling visiting Boston, Canada, several California cities, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Seattle. My RA condition has made sleeping at hotels a challenge, so many of our trips have been short three and four day trips.
Recently, there has been a number of sad occurrences…the loss of parents, the death of students, the loss of family pets and most recently the death of close friends. These things bring everything into perspective. During the past 54 years, I have devoted myself to education, students, community, colleagues, friends and family. During the past few months Nancy and I have gotten much closer as we have seen and shared the challenges that have surrounded us and our families. She has been supportive through all of it and I love and appreciate her very much.
I do not know what the next several years hold, but one thing is certain. Whatever I am able to do, to achieve, to enjoy, will be done enjoyably and in conjunction with Nancy, family, friends, colleagues and former students with the hope and belief that it all works out the way it is supposed to and things are right with my world.
-Ed Wolfe! 9/6/2014
I Want To Tell You About My Dear Friend Tim:
August 29, 2014 at 8:25pm
I first met Tim Whalen 44 years ago last Wednesday when Harold Goff hired him to teach History and English at Grant Jr. High School where I was teaching instrumental music. My first impression of the man was “boy is he short…and kinda cocky.” As the year progressed we found that we had the same lunch period. It was in that lunchroom that I learned more than I ever wanted to know about LSU football! You see, Timothy H. Whalen was an “all-american” LSU fan. That is not to suggest that he was an all American LSU athlete, just an “all-american” fan.
As the early years continued, we did discover some like interests. We both liked to play basketball for one. There were many a weekend when we “borrowed” coach Stell’s keys to the gym and played some one-on-one games. Actually it was closer to 1/14 (me) to 3/4 (him). If I drove the lane, he would invariably make a hasty retreat from any possible contact. He, on the other hand could drive around me like I was standing still, and in many cases, I was!
I’m not sure how this came to pass, but after one of our games, I returned home (we had become roommates) to shower and wash the truck in the driveway. Tim stayed at school to use the whirlpool. Tim somehow managed to lock himself out of the coaches’ office (where he had left all his clothes, keys, and ID) and found himself needing to get home (in a stark naked state). Now, you would think that he would call me to come and pick him up…right? ‘fraid not. You see, he had a hide-a-key on the ‘vette and decided to drive home in that rather exposed state. He crawled to the car, ran several yellow lights and pulled up in our drive rather happy to sprint for the front door.
Another thing we had in common was an interest in model railroading. At the time, we were both running HO brass engines and large consists of passenger and freight cars. We both had a rather large collection of high quality equipment. One day, we decided (actually Tim decided) that we should have a contest to see whose engine would pull a larger train…his Sierra Articulated or my Baldwin NYC Pa1 and Pb1. After several loops around his large double mainline, it was apparent that my large brass engine was going to win…he did not take that at all well.
In 1974, I was elected Grant Jr. High “Teacher of the Year”. Not to be outdone, Tim was proudly elected “Teacher of the Year” in 1975. When I left Grant to work at Manzano High School, Tim was hired on at Sandia High School as vice-principal. He was very successful as an administrator and in very little time, he became the principal at Manzano High School. About that time, I left Hoover Middle School for California and started my first tenure at San Dimas High School. We had been roommates at two different rental houses for a total of 7 years. Those years were good times and I could write many, many stories about the silliness, the serious times, the arguments, the differences in our dietary desires…oh, so many stories. Tim credits his friend Ronnie Sherlock (a Louisiana band director) and myself for showing him the importance of music and other fine arts in the schools. As principal, he always made sure that the arts were WELL supported and had only top notch instructors. He was also one of the ONLY principals who made it to concerts, showings, festivals and events by the artists in his charge and made sure that they were as revered as his athletic teams. He was unique in that regard.
Our friendship was just warming up after I left New Mexico. As our eyesight began to age, we both moved on from HO to O gauge mostly Lionel trains. He actually had begun collecting Lionel long before he convinced me to “upgrade” as he put it. We would make it a tradition (he was an “all-american’ traditionalist as well) to see each other occasionally…perhaps even twice a year in some years, and mostly around train meets and in later years, just because we wanted to. He relished his trips to LA and I made sure to take him to every hobby shop that ever existed in the LA area over the last 30 years. We traded, trains, bought trains for each other, and continued to BS about everything from LSU football to Lobo basketball. We developed a great skill at the friendly insult and exercised the insult at every possible opportunity. I called him “tiny man” and he would often refer to me as ….well, somethings are best left unsaid!
When I had my hospitalization for acute pancreatitis last October, he was very concerned and called me every day. He came out in March and spent a Sunday afternoon listening to my San Dimas Jazz Workshop Big Band at Ladera Serra Park. I had him take several photos of the rehearsal and he made it a point to talk to each musician if for no other reason to state that I was “just no good”!
Last month, he finally convinced me to take Nancy and let him host us at his home in Albuquerque. He gave us the run of the place and even though he was already back at work as principal of an elementary parochial school, he made sure to stay up late with me long after Nancy went to bed as we shared old war stories about our past and our future. We had, for several years shared a desire to take a road trip to York, Pennsylvania to visit the worlds largest train meet and after several years of prodding, I finally had him convinced that he would retire this coming June. Our trip was to take place in October of 2015.
Tim called me two weeks ago to re-assure me that my upcoming prostate biopsy would be a breeze. In his less than delicate way, he said that they would simply lay me on my side and put the needles “up my heinney”. I was not particularly re-assured. He was going to come out in November for the train meet in Ontario, CA. It was another of our traditions. I wish I could have been there for him last Saturday night when he collapsed. He always pushed himself too hard and never accepted that he was aging. He passed last night at 7:00 pm MST. Nancy is in Simi tonight and I am alone with Cody and the cat…more alone than I have been in a long while! I already miss him DEARLY. I love him so much. -Ed
ps- Nancy and I returned home last night from a whirlwind drive to Albuquerque where I had the honor of being a pallbearer for Tim. We had a chance to re-connect with some terrific friends and to meet some wonderful new friends as well. The service was very well done and the church was standing room only. Tim would have appreciated that. The graveside service was short but well done and We said goodbye to our friend around noon on Tuesday. Love and prayers go out to Susan, Kevin, Ryan and Charley during this time of grief.