A segment on television Sunday gave South Pasadena resident Lissa Reynolds the inspiration to call on her neighbors to make Memorial Day just a little more, let’s say, memorable this year.
Teased by the idea given to her by Steve Hartman, the beloved roaming correspondent known for his “Sunday Morning” and “On the Road” bits on CBS, Reynolds went to Instagram to follow up on an unusual request made by the news veteran.
With most ceremonies, parades and picnics canceled this year on account of the coronavirus outbreak, Hartman teamed with Jari Villanueva, a retired Air Force bugler, to add something different to the holiday. The pair called on veterans, musicians, teachers, and students of all music levels to sound the playing of Taps, usually played at American military funerals, ceremonies and in somber settings, at exactly 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.
It didn’t matter where – porches, balconies, front lawns or driveways, Hartman and Villanueva urged Americans across the land to pull out musical instruments and give it their best effort.
Moved by what she saw while watching “Sunday Morning,” Reynolds called on those around her through social media and contacted her neighbor, John Grab, a highly-respected freelance musician, who welcomed the request, lifting his trombone – close enough to the trumpet or bugle – to perform the 24-note sound at the precise hour on Monday.
On this day, the national event offered an opportunity for America to pause for a moment and pay respect to service men and women who had fallen as well to the thousands of victims losing their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In bringing the idea to the forefront, Hartman recalled a story he did back in 2012 about Don Brittain, who sounded Taps, which takes only about a minute to play, on his balcony at sunset from Tacoma, Washington, in tribute to America’s veterans.
Villanueva, who retired from the United States Air Force as a master sergeant and performed with the United States Air Force Band at Arlington National Cemetery, independently had the same idea. He launched an organization, Taps for Veterans, which matches trumpet and bugle players with military families for funerals and other ceremonies.
Many residents know Reynolds as the founder of South Pasadena Arts Council and as managing director of Fremont Centre Theatre. Her husband, James, a dramatic actor, is best known for portraying the role of Abe Carver on “Days of Our Lives,” on daytime television.
He is also a veteran of the Marine Corp. “For about 10 years during the Afghanistan war we participated in USO and Armed Forces entertainment events,” explained Lissa, noting her husband was also the Veterans Affairs (VA) spokesperson for many years. “We would meet and talk with veterans and current soldiers in the hospitals, often right after surgery from battle wounds,” said Lissa. “It was often heart-wrenching and also inspiring in many ways. We had so much gratitude for these soldiers both men and women.”
So, when Hartman said he wanted help from viewers, Reynolds told herself she wanted to play a part. “I put out a request on our SPARC South Pasadena Arts Council Instagram (@soutthpasadenaartscouncil) to invite musicians to play Taps in honor Memorial Day at 3 p.m. I have no idea how many did so.”
Except for one, that is – Grab, her neighbor down the street from her Hanscom Drive home, calling on the freelance musician to play the uniquely familiar sound. Grab, who is also a poet, and his wife Michaela Keating, gifted in her own right as a violinist, have lived in the hill area of the city since 1999. “John enthusiastically agreed to join the other musicians across the country playing Taps,” explained Reynolds. “We didn’t publicize it but neighbors walking their pets and families having an afternoon out together joined South Pasadena Mayor Bob Joe and others, yes, properly social distancing, enjoying this inspiring moment.”
Those hearing Taps were encouraged to stand, face the music, place their hands over their heart, much like the response to the National Anthem.
“I hope others had the same quiet moment we had together, especially during this Coronavirus episode we are all going through,” Reynolds said. “It was a lovely moment to not think about ourselves, but honor the men and women who have fought for this country and paid the ultimate sacrifice. We are all fighting for our country and our livelihood now in another way. And just like the warriors of the past we must support and be grateful for the caretaker warriors of this unexpected crises. Hopefully, we as a country can come together in the same spirit of listening to Taps.”