In Memoriam: John Baumfalk

By Cadets Alum Charlie Sydoryk

The following is a memoir of John Baumfalk's life and funeral written by fellow Cadets alumnus Charlie Sydoryk on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Since John's funeral was in California, many Cadets alumni were not able to attend. The Cadets family sincerely thanks Charlie for putting this account together in memory of a great Cadet and friend.

John Baumfalk.jpegThis afternoon we laid to final rest a man that many of us within the Cadet ranks know as “Johnny Baumps.” We are all aware of what John accomplished back in 1934 and throughout his marching career, ending in 1940 with our first national title. John Baumfalk has been described as one of our 12 founding members, but today I learned that John was far more than that. I listened intently at his funeral service to family members who described their most cherished memories of their step-dad.

The first thing I learned was that he should never be referred to as their step-dad because he was THEIR DAD, the man who never once raised his voice in anger or had a harsh opinion of anyone he met. Their mom, they stated, had done well in picking John because he was never anything but a loving and caring father.

During this busy family time, John was also instructing several Southern California drum corps. He was the arranger and bugle instructor for the Koyasan Commodore Perry Scouts, Troop 379, an all-male Japanese drum and bugle corps that he led to the 1962 and 1963 California State American Legion Titles.

John Baumfalk1.jpegIn 1964, he accompanied the corps to Japan to perform in front of then Prince Akihito; John was the only non-Japanese member of the group. I learned of this from 88-year-old Mas Fujimoto, who was their corps director at the time and attended today’s services honoring John. Mas told me that he was astounded by John's work ethic and his ability to teach playing skills to those young men, most of whom had no prior musical training.

During this same timeframe, John also instructed the Monterrey Park All-Girls Drum and Bugle Corps. He even convinced one of his daughters to become a snare drummer. It seems John adopted the same policies in raising his wonderful family that he did in convincing that group of Holy Name altar boys to start up that little church-sponsored drum corps back in 1934.

So just how was John able to accomplish all these feats? Well, it starts with the genes. You see, John's great-grandfather was the Royal Bandmaster to the Court of Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, so the inherited musical abilities were there. Even though he had no formal musical training, his sister Nellie did. Being as close as they were, I'm sure she passed along all that John could consume.

Next, John developed some amazing personal skills. He was not of great physical stature, so trying to impose his will was not going to work for him. Instead, he developed this infectious persona that many have likened to Andy Hardy, Mickey Rooney's 1930s character who never let the thought of defeat or an impossible task cross his mind. John became the eternal optimist, never allowing a negative or dark thought to enter his being. He lived his life within those parameters, and he accomplished more than most men will ever imagine. His life's work has touched the souls of over 5,000 young men and women beyond that of his own family.

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I think if you ask any Cadet of any generation, you will hear about the moment they first put on that maroon corps jacket and that feeling of euphoria and pride, that it turns out was a bit of John Baumfalk's soul. It exists in every one of us who has worn that uniform, and now it’s our turn to make sure that, in his honor, that light is never extinguished.

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At the conclusion of the service, I was joined by two other alumni, Larissa Benedek (Cadets trumpet '04-'07) and Stephen Prosser (Cadets mellophone '92), where we sang for the last time the Holy Name Hymn for John, "For Holy Name Shall Always Be.”

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