GAYVILLE — Thanks to a donation from an area family, the Gayville-Volin School Band is two instruments larger.
When Meckling-area farmer Gerald Jepsen died this past February, his wife Marianne and their four grown children wondered what could be done with the memorials they received.
"The kids thought, 'Well, he went to Gayville High School and he loved music,' so they thought if people didn't designate (where the memorials would go), they would give the money to start a fund at the high school and buy some instruments," Marianne Jepsen said.
The funds totaled $1,100 and went toward the purchase of a French horn and a marching tuba, or sousaphone.
"I think it's really great," Jepsen said. "Gayville School is a nice school. It's really great for them."
"It's very generous," said Meghan Powell, the school's music director. "It was nice to have some extra money to buy something special with. …
"Getting these instruments is a huge step," she said. "Usually you buy one instrument, or you work toward one instrument per year. Getting two in one year, I feel kind of spoiled."
If it wasn't for the donation from the Jepsen family, the school might never have been able to get these specific instruments.
"Those are just (instruments) a small school can't afford, usually," said elementary music instructor Laurie Hanson. "It's really neat, because otherwise our school wouldn't be able to get those kind or horns."
"We haven't had a marching tuba for a couple years, and I don't think we've ever had a French horn," Powell added.
In the beginning, Jepsen said, the plan was to assist students in purchasing an instrument for themselves, but it was soon decided it might be more beneficial to buy something the school could keep.
"I'm sure a small school would have a harder time (obtaining certain instruments)," Jepsen said.
Hanson verified this, saying, "Because we're a small school, some of the kids can't buy instruments, and so they play a school instrument. We have a trumpet and a flute and a few things, but we've never had any big brass instruments."
When the students graduate, the instruments will remain at the school for other students to play.
Powell is currently in the process of recruiting students to play the marching tuba.
"Right now, with the sousaphone, I'm kind of twisting some arms," she said. "It'll probably be a student who's a sixth-grader next year. … The sooner we can get it in the program, it's going to help out a lot. We need some bass.
"The French horn we picked up because I have a girl who's supposed to transfer here next year from Utah, and she said she played the horn. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?'" Powell said. "Even if she doesn't transfer here, it's a good instrument just to have."
Music was always a big part of Gerald Jepsen's life, beginning when he played with the Gayville Legion's Drum and Bugle Corps when he was 9. In high school, he played with a band called the Jive Five with Kenneth Snow, Jim Snow, Lloyd Haarberg and Harold Fiedler.
Although her husband kept his trumpet for the rest of his life, Marianne Jepsen said that after Gerald returned home from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he no longer played.
"We would have been married 61 years in April. He passed away in February. I don't think I've ever seen that man play that trumpet, and I don't know why he never got it out. But he loved music," she said.
When he wasn't working, Gerald liked to spend his time listening to bands on the radio or watching them on television. He and Marianne also liked to attend area dances.
"We went whenever we could go," she said. "We enjoyed it."
This is why she thinks the donation to the school is such a fitting tribute for her husband.
"I think he would really be thrilled. He'd think that was super," she said.