[Dixielandjazz] Tommy Yetta's funeral
Sat, 7 Sep 2002 14:40:05 -0500
I've been away for a week, but I'm back and now I'll tell you about Tommy
Yetta's funeral, which was Aug 31, 2002.
The funeral was held on Saturday Morning on a bright sunny day. A few
mourners stood outside the front door of the Funeral home. As I entered, I
was greeted by his girl friend with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was
misty-eyed and told me about his last moments, which came after a five week
stay in the hospital. He had died after a kidney had shut down following a
long battle with vasculitis.
I signed the guest book and entered the parlor. There were a number
of friends and family standing around, and a boom box in the corner was
softly playing a dixieland CD. I made my way to the casket....Tommy was
dressed in a tux with a red bow tie. He had evidently lost a lot of weight
in the hospital.
Musicians started coming in later. I don't know how many, but there
were a lot....more than usually attend the union meetings. A few carried
instruments in cases, while others left theirs in the room that exited to
the hearse driveway. At 12:30 the mass began, which was done by a priest
well known to the family. One of Tommy's four daughters told some humorous
anecdotes about life with Tommy. She told of Tommy's comment after playing
the Bix festival "That was my SuperBowl."
When the mass was over, the doors opened to the hearse driveway, where
stood an antique hearse with glass sides, and pulled by a matched pair of
white horses, driven by a fellow wearing a black stove pipe hat. I was
wishing I had brought my camera.
As we filed out, the band of about 20 players started playing St.
James infirmary. It took them a few bars to get together, but from there on
they got better as we walked to the grave site a few hundred yards away.
The band led the procession, playing the Saints (the Saints lost, as usual
[New Orleans humor]), and a few other tunes.
Following the band was the hearse, and then the mourners. At the
grave site, the priest said a prayer, then Tommy's girl friend Dorothy
played a solo chorus on trumpet of What a Wonderful World, and the band
joined in on the second chorus.
The crowd then wandered back to the funeral home and their cars.
Tommy was a powerful trumpet player. The front line had no trouble
knowing where to go when he played. He will be missed.
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