Jim Billingsley’s Tribute Page

November 15, 2008

Thanks For Visiting!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimbillingsley @ 11:30 am

This page was set up so that the friends, former students, and family of Jim Billingsley would be able to honor him on his 85th birthday.  Because  Jim has touched so many lives, and has meant so much to all of us, we thought that it would be nice to let him know the impact he’s had by having people leave a comment for him to read on his birthday.  We were thrilled with your response.  He had no idea that the blog existed and was shown it for the first time on the evening of his birthday (November 6th).  He was absolutely amazed and overwhelmed by the comments of each of you.  Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts for helping to make this birthday so special for him.  He has written a response to everyone which is posted on the “Thanks To Everyone” page. Please feel free to continue to leave any comments you’d like or if you are new to the site, to leave a first comment by clicking on the “comments” link below (where you can also read what others have written).  Thanks again for helping us let Jim know that his life has had such a positive influence on others.

P.S. Don’t forget to read the short biography about his life by clicking on the “About Mr. B.” page on the far right of the screen.

P.P.S.  Jim has written a response to everyone to thank you all for writing.  Please click on the “Thanks To Everyone!” page, found under the “About Mr. B.” page, to read.



  1. Mr. B–thanks for the years in the band and marching band–great memories!

    Comment by Mary von Dorster — October 13, 2008 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  2. Mr. B-Thanks for your all your hard work at Oberlin HS. Your stories and your passion for music and band have stayed with me more than any thing else from that time in my life. The indelible mark of OHS Marching Band were lessons of working hard to achieve good things in life (and to expect a little sweat and dirt from the ruts on the practice field of life) and and how to get along and work with others. But more than anything, thank you for encouraging my love for music. I know you made a difference in my life and the lives of my classmates.

    Deb Gilmer

    Comment by Deborah Gilmer — October 13, 2008 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  3. Still using your teachings in life and music, daily. My wife Katy and I are in a benefit swing band. I practice trumpet and piano daily, still enjoying music! I have a son who is a musician and a son who is a veterinary student. I still have a veterinary practice and enjoy my life, immensely. Sister ,Karon, lives in Phoenix and cares for my dad, who is 87 yrs.and has mild dementia. It is the best place for him , now. Karon was classically trained in voice and also has a deep appreciation of music. My mom at 84 yrs. lives in Vermilion,Ohio part of the year and in Washington, across the street from us in the winter. She is still going strong. As you probably remember, brother Scott died of lymphoma a few years ago. His whole life was music, teaching in the public schools and gigging all over San Diego as a casual musician. He could fill in,in any situation, any kind of music,and on short notice. He lived to play his drums. When I visited him once at school he had his trap-set set up in the middle of the band room and all the kids followed his lead as he directed from his drum set. The kids loved it. He also set up a music program in a rural area of southern California by taking instuments in a van up to a little community for band practice.
    Steve Johnson got me a copy of the marching band recording at Oberlin College from 1965. I showed it to our swing band leader, a University of Washington music gradute. He commented that we were better than the maarching band at the University of Washington. They use the tape as a motivational aid to teach their high school music students.
    I hope your health holds, that every day you can have some happiness, and that you fully realize and always remember the huge impact you had on so many lives. There will never be another Mr. B. As memories become more and more charished in my life I’m sure I’ll be thinking more about band practice and my high school music experiences. Thanks for that. Sincerely, Gary Haigh

    Comment by gary haigh — October 13, 2008 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  4. Hello Mr. B,
    Your name brings back lots of memories about marching band, like “step kick back turn” and “shuffle”. The dance routines were the best and the music you chose for them was perfect. I remember one routine, I think it was Sweet Georgia Brown, where the band opened up for 4 trumpet players in the middle and Ricky did his own little dance. I think we did one with 4 trombones too. The list goes on and on.
    I also remember concert band and the music you picked for us there was really good stuff. We always did well at state both with the full band and with the ensembles that you put together.
    I wish you the best and thank you for bringing pride and pleasure to our high school music program.

    Comment by Bob Williams '69 — October 13, 2008 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  5. Happy Birthday, Mr. B!
    Don Berman, OHS class of ’70 here. Thanks to Bob Williams’ email today, I got to hear about this happy birthday occasion. As I told Bob, when I think back on my OHS days and memorable teachers, you top the list………by a mile!! Your passion for us students, the music, and the level of effort you put into everything you did for us, reminds me of the legendary Buddy Rich. 110% effort, all the time, every time. I went on to major in music and percussion performance in college. I am still playing jazz gigs here in Seattle today, and that is partially due to the great inspiration your teaching and caring and influence gave to me. I quote you frequently when discussing successful ensembles with people. “It only takes one clunker to mess up the whole band!” I remember you telling us that one day in the band room during practice. “Let me show you guys,” you said. Then, to our 1st clarinetist Natalie Clymer, you said,” Hey Natalie, let me borrow your clarinet for a second.” You then proceeded to have us restart the section of the piece we were rehearsing, while you honked and squeaked away on Natalie’s clarinet! “See what I mean?” you asked us as we all laughed. But I never forgot that. Everyone on the team has to do his / her part for the group to succeed. Every member is important and has value. Thanks for all the love and caring you so generously gave us. Like I say, you went beyond the call of duty, ALL the time EVERY time!!!
    God bless you on this happy occasion!

    Comment by Don Berman — October 13, 2008 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  6. How well I remember those great days, even in the summer, of practise and then performance. Chicago, the Browns games, and so many grea Friday nights (except for the Obie/North Rudgeville game, 86-0 Oberlin, and playing the school song way too many times!) Mr. B, how many times did we attack the high school?! You started me on the trombone and, believe it or not, I still play the trombone and tuba for my school’s various music groups here in Massachusetts.
    The marching band experience was one of the finest episodes of my life and I will always be grateful for your leadership and inspiration. You helped me understand excellence and I have tried to pass that idea on to my adult children, Karin, Jessie, and Ryan. Thanks from the very depths of my heart!

    Comment by Bobby Cooley — October 13, 2008 @ 10:16 pm | Reply

  7. Mr B.,
    The things I appreciated most about your leadership were the energy, enthusiasm, and yes, discipline that you brought to the W.H.S. Tiger Swing Band. You never settled for “mediocre” or “good enough” but always pushed us to excellence. That excellence shone through when the announcer at the New York City Macy’s Parade introduced us to the country as “the best band in the land.” I also appreciated the individual concern you showed for each of your students, and your high ethical and moral standards. My days in the Tiger Swing Band will always be remembered with much fondness and pride. I still consider my “band buddies” to be the best friends I ever had. Thanks for being our mentor, coach, motivator, example, and inspiration. Happy birthday and may God bless you and yours!

    Comment by Heidi (Graber) Hall - head majorette, WHS class of 1976 — October 14, 2008 @ 12:03 am | Reply

  8. Mr. B. Congratulations on your 85th birthday. It is hard to record memories of the OHS Marching Band. There would just be too many.

    I will try a few.

    You gave me a chance to be part of the band, while I was still in Jr. High school.

    I learned discipline, dedication, and the what it takes to be a winner in life during my years in the band. No matter how good we thought we were, you had a way to bring us back to earth. And when we were at our lowest, you had Mw way to let us know that we were the best, “we were Oberlin”.

    You were a man of conviction, like when we screwed up and you said we would all get “F”s for our mid term exam grade.
    I still have that report card!!! My Mom couldn’t believe it. Randy got an “F” in band on a midterm. Well the lesson was learned by all.

    Thanks for everything. I am a better person because of what I learned from you. I am a better Man, because of what I learned from you.

    God Bless you,

    Randy McMickens
    Class of 1969
    Percussion & Bass Drum (Senior Year)

    Comment by Randy McMickens — October 15, 2008 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  9. Mr B.
    Very Happy Birthday to you!! I was delighted to see you again at the alumni performance even though I knew you did not remember me – I would have been surprised if you did. What was more surprising was to hear your disbelief that anyone remembered you! How could we forget you? You influenced so many lives – you taught us more than music, you taught us about life. Your bands were great because we wanted to please you. You were tough but we knew you expected great things of us and we gave it to you because we loved you. We still do.
    Thank you for everything.
    Sheri Meyer
    Class of 1977

    Comment by Sheri Meyer — October 15, 2008 @ 12:42 am | Reply

  10. Mr. B! I was in the class of 1973. To say you inspired me would be an understatement. My sophmore year I was scared and not very good at playing the clarinet. Happily I sat in last chair and marched in the last line among an assortment of other instruments. I still had fun. We marched in Pittsburg at an NFL game and I made a wrong turn and marched the length of the field alone in the wrong direction. I felt everyone laughing at me! My Junior year you encouraged me to switch to trumpet, and I liked it! Except for the bloody lip from doing the “two step shuffle” down the field while playing! You really kept us moving and we loved you. My senior year I accomplished something I had been trying for all three years, majorette! I had failed the years before because of jitters or my weight, but you encouraged me to lose the weight and try again. Then you asked me to try something else new for symphonic band, the french horn. You got this girl to learn music when all she ever wanted to do was twirl a batton for the Tiger Swing Band. Your name goes down in history with George “Red” Bird. I can still see you on that bird tower watching us as we practiced on the upper field, usually you were looking down at your shoes and shaking your head with the whistle in your mouth. We worked hard to give the crowd new shows each week, thanks to your leadership. Congratulations on all your life changes and keeping all your options open. When life gives you lemons, right. Learn something new! You were my favorite teacher ever. You believed in me.

    Comment by Dena (Slicker) DeVaughn — October 15, 2008 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

    • Dena,

      Hey girl! Happy Thanksgiving Day! I need to ask a question. Didn’t we go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and march? I’m sure I was there and I know you would have been too. Let me know! I have a bet on this! LOL

      Diane McFarren Myers

      Comment by Diane McFarren — November 25, 2010 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

  11. Hi Mr “B”,
    You were the best thing that ever happened to Oberlin Highschool. I was in the class of 1966. Remember the lights we had on our uniforms? That was truly an awesome site to see when the stadium went dark and all these lights moving on the field. You were and still are the greatest. To overcome all of your health issues is an inspiration in itself. We loved you in highschool and we all still love you today. May God bless you and your family.

    Patty Monroe Bartucca, Columbia SC

    Comment by Patty Monroe Bartucca — October 15, 2008 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  12. When the decade of the 80s began I was in my own “Great Depression” (equal, I think to the one in the 30s) and it was a cold winter. The thremostat was at 63 degrees and I had a cold almost the entire winter. As the next winter approached I did the math and determined the thermostat would have to be at 55 degrees. Consequently I got all my financial affairs (meager as they were) in order and made sure my will was up to date. The thought made me think about the pioneers and the ones who died from the elements on their westward journey. I would have been the first to die–around Mansfield. If we hit a warm spell I would have made it to the Indiana border. It was all very distressing.

    And then, the only man on Earth who took the cold worse than me, James Billingsley, moved in and we pooled our pennies and were able to bump the thermostat all the way up to a decadent 74 degrees. (Carbon footprints hadn’t been invented yet so we didn’t feel guilty.) As a result of our collaborative efforts we both made it through the winter without dying. Then in the spring, the real fun began. Thanks for the memories, James. (But those broken ribs on the engine of your car were not necessary. I warned you.)
    Your buddy,
    Eric Hanson

    Comment by Eric Hanson — October 15, 2008 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  13. Dear Mr. “Bee”

    Congratulations to you on the celebration of your 85th birthday.

    There have been many occasions when I have referred to you and the impact that you have had on my life. Being a great educator [which you are] involves a clear and consistent vision for the future. The journey from OHS to educator/researcher that I am today started with your hands-on methods of connecting with me and each of your students in a very unique and inspirational way. I remember you once saying:(paraphrasing) Listen to people, read and learn all that you can AND THEN throw it out and do it your way! What a lesson for life! I have actually “done it my way” with no regrets. Thank you for that philosophy!

    What has been so remarkable,in retrospect,is that the past DOES NOT equal the future. I found my voice once I left Oberlin; and that voice was shaped by the life lessons that I have learned from you. It is not how “smart” you are academically, but how “prepared” you are to respond to the multitude of life challenges in a healthy, productive manner so as not to lose your sense of self-worth or the system of values that have proven to withstand the test of time.

    Your belief in me has been instrumental in me believing in myself! I thank you for that gift…

    Respectfully submitted,
    Edsel L. Hocker, Jr.
    Class of 1969

    Comment by Edsel L. Hocker Jr., Ed.D. — October 15, 2008 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

  14. Happy Birthday Mr. Billingsley.

    Those of us on the football team very much appreciated the dedicated support of you and the band through good years and bad.

    Comment by COL (Ret) Dana L. Newcomb, '65 — October 15, 2008 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  15. Mr B.
    Congratulations on your 85th birthday!
    I graduated from Massillon Washington High School in 2006. Another student and I accually marched for you for your “marching archives” I guess you would call it. It was a blast. To accually march infront of the Great Jim Billingsley was truly an honor. My mother had you as her director at Massillon in 1981. To this day, I still hear about her years in band and how much fun she had. I just wanted to thank you for helping shape the great tradition of the Massillon Tiger Swing Band. I had some of the most memorable moments in my life wearing that uniform.
    Happy Birthday from Cara and Debbie Murray

    Comment by Cara Murray — October 15, 2008 @ 10:46 pm | Reply

  16. Happy Birthday Mr B. I’m sure you knew what we learned in marching band would help us all through our lives. It made me a better nurse, mom and wife, I had to make comprimises, adjust my schedule, work with people who weren’t my friends, stay up all night many nights, walk the floor and music was always apart of that. I will always remember my 16th birthday, I spent it in New York with you. Thank you for all that you did, even when you didn’t have to.

    Comment by Jill Smith Lytle — October 16, 2008 @ 2:32 am | Reply

  17. Mr. B,
    Congratulations on reaching such a milestone birthday! You have had a tremendous impact on my life. As early as 7th grade, I knew I wanted to do what you did, that is, lead a band. With your continuing support and inspiration I went to college and majored in music education. You gave me my first band job. The experience at Massillon was so good, I joined the army after two years! However, returning to Oberlin I was able to rebuild the badly deteriorated band program and bring back the quality that you established in the 1960’s. We brought back the “swing” marching style you taught us and re-introduced the light shows. (You’ll be happy to know they still have them!) In the concert arena, we received I’s at state contest ten times and always challenged ourselves with great band literature. I tell you this not to toot my own horn, but to illustrate the influence you had on my career.
    I cannot help but think of the great times we had with Jim Lee. We all miss him. We had more laughs together. Remember our wrestling matches?
    Enjoy your special day. And know that you have hundreds of former students who wish you all the very best!

    Steve Johnson, OHS 1968

    Comment by Steve Johnson — October 16, 2008 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

  18. Happy Birthday Mr. B!

    Words can not adequately express the positive impact you have left on my life. I was in the last three years of your Massillon Tiger Swing Band. My Junior year we traveled to England on the band road trip of all time. Wow, what an experience for a group of high school band kids. Those Britts just had no idea what to do with us, and we created quite the following. But in the big picture…..it was the day to day lessons you taught us, on and off the marching band field that really was so amazing. You worked us hard (9 months out of the year on the band field) but somehow…..it was fun. Though we may have grumbled and called for water breaks…..we all respected you so much we would have marched in our bare feet in the middle of winter if that’s what you wanted, because we wanted you to be proud of us. I always felt you cared about every kid in our band and that you wanted us to go on to great things. You spoke to all of us and were in touch with what was going on in our young lives.

    Now I have two teenagers in the Massillon Tiger Swing Band and I hope that they will look back at their experience in band feel the way I do about those wonderful days. I talk of you often and what you taught me about dedication and commitment. And that hard work pays off in feeling good about your accomplishments…….whatever they are.

    Mr. B, I was thrilled to see you at the MTSB 75th anniversary. Knowing you were on the sideline watching us march one more time filled me with pride. I wanted the performance to be perfect for you. Thanks you all you have given our community and to me personally. Some may say all they learned in life they learned in Kindergarten……I would say I learned about life in your Massillon Tiger Swing Band.

    God Bless you and have a wonderful birthday!

    Nancy (McComas) Jobe Class of 1981,

    Comment by Nancy Jobe — October 16, 2008 @ 4:51 pm | Reply

  19. Hi Mr. B! Happy Birthday! It was wonderful seeing you a few weeks ago at the band halftime show! Band to Chuck and I was high school. All of our fondest memories were created during our marching band years. We will never forget our trip to England. We went back 6 summers ago with our two boys and visited the Fairweather family that I stayed with and are still in touch. Our boys Derek and Daniel have heard so much about you and our band years. Derek was thrilled to meet you and shake your hand. He wants very much to be a band director and even though he was never taught by you, you are part of his inspiration. We wish you much happiness on your birthday and always!

    With much love and respect,
    Chuck and Denise Condo Classes of 80-81

    Comment by Chuck and Denise Condo — October 17, 2008 @ 2:21 am | Reply

  20. Hey Mr. B:

    What an accomplishment!!!!! Congratulations on your 85th birthday. Being a part of the Tiger Swing Band as a majorette has always been a highlight in my life, in fact, I am still involved as the majorette advisor at one of the local high schools. My son who graduated in 2006 was also a member of the Tiger Swing Band. I truly learned so much from your leadership and teaching skills. Thank you for leading not only the Class of 1972 but also many many others.

    Thanks for the memories!
    Tonya Hodgson Stuck Class of 1972

    Comment by Tonya Hodgson Stuck — October 17, 2008 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

  21. Dear Mr. B.

    Happy 85th – many more. I was a majorette at OHS class of ’67. Thank you for the wonderful memories and being such a positive influence on my high school years. The lessons of dedication, hard work, perserverance, and passion were not lost on me. Band was truly a great foundation for me.

    Thank your family for posting this blog, It’s great to see familiar names from the OHS band family.

    Bless you and take care.

    Jane Atkins Hutchison

    Comment by janep123 — October 17, 2008 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

  22. Jim: It was great seeing you last April at the awards ceremony in Massillon. You will always have a warm spot in my heart for the love of music you instilled in the students of the Tiger Swing Band.
    Happy Birthday and please have many more.
    Betty Fink-Westenfelder

    Comment by Betty Fink-Westenfelder — October 17, 2008 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

  23. Mr. B,
    Happy Birthday and thank you for giving me my best high school memories. Although I was never an outstanding musician it was wonderful being part of an outstanding band. You also taught us lessons about about the importance of honesty that I will never forget.

    I have four children and because of your influence I encoraged each to play a musical insturment, which they all did. Each of their band and orchestra experiences were the best part of their high school experiences. Their band director was also named Mr. B. My oldest son is now a conductor for the U.S. Marine Corp band in California.

    Congratulations on 85 years of touching so many lives.

    Marilyn Williams Kielar O.H.S. class of 1964

    Comment by Marilyn Williams Kielar — October 18, 2008 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

  24. Dear Mr. B,
    Happy, happy birthday.
    You really are a special man who made a huge difference in the lives of so many young people from all walks of life. We all learned so much from you and looked forward to the challenging practices for the marching band, concert band, competitions, recordings, etc. etc. You made team work, hard work and discipline fun and rewarding, a true gift and what all teaching should be about. As someone said earlier, we all loved you and love you still.
    Eat a lot of cake.
    Leslie Miller
    class of 1968

    Comment by Leslie Miller — October 19, 2008 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

  25. Mr. B – Happy Birthday! As many have already said – you made a difference! As the leader of the MTSB you provided inspiration – “If you don’t want to be here – go home and drink coke with your mom” and the type of vision that allowed us to do unbelievable things. The time I spent as a member of your bands provided lessons in teamwork, hard work, preparation, commitment, vision, and the belief that if we worked hard enough – we could accomplish anything. Much of the success I have enjoyed in my life came from the lessons you taught us in the band room and on the field. Often over the years, I have found myself quoting you to my students and my own children.

    It was incredible to see you at the 75th anniversary show and have the opportunity to introduce my children to a man that made such a difference in my life.

    Thank you for all you have done, all you have given and for always being Mr. B.

    With warmest regards and admiration.

    Chris Smith – Trombone
    Class of 1979

    Comment by Chris Smith — October 21, 2008 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

  26. Happy Birthday, Mr. B!

    I look back on my years in the OHS band as some of the happiest of my life. It was remarkable how such a diverse bunch of people pulled together to create a really remarkable organization. That’s something we have not seen much of since that time.

    You did that with your enthusiasm, high expectations, humor, and an unstopable belief that everyone has the talent to make a contribution, even if they couldn’t even tune their own trombone.

    Al DeGennaro
    OHS ’68

    Comment by Al DeGennaro — October 22, 2008 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  27. Happy Birthday Mr. B. Where have all the years gone. Saegertown High School seems like yesterday, well maybe not. Hope you are well. I’m in New Castle, PA and all is well here. Many, many more years to you. Dianne

    Comment by Dianne Hogan DeEulio — October 22, 2008 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  28. Wow, 86 years old. I have often wondered what ever happened to you over the years and believe it or not I have thought of you from time to time. I myself am turning 60 in a couple of weeks which also seems impossible. I will never forget the great years at Oberlin with the band. I think it is the part of high school that I remember the most. It was someting that I took great pride in and still do today. I think it had a big impact on who I am today as a person. I am now a computer development manager for a large insurance company in Fort Wayne, IN where I have worked for the past 30 years. I have 4 children and 1 grandson. Thanks for being an important part of my life.

    Happy Birthday Mr. B.

    Comment by Paul Dixon — October 22, 2008 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  29. Hello Mr. Billlingsley,

    Congratulations on arriving at such a ripe age against all odds.

    Saegertown band members think of you often. My experiences in marching and concert band are with me still. Hard work but good times and great memories.

    I especially remember the ruts you marched us around in as we rehearsed day after day. And the heat on the day of parades. And all the awards we won and how good that felt. And the fun on the bus too.

    Right now I live in Chicago about three miles north of Soldier Field and have not forgotten our half time march there – ever.

    You got us out of town and broadened our horizons. Thank you for that.

    I was unaware you were a WWII vet or that you had been in the PI. I was in Luzon too (during Viet Nam era) and lived north of Manila. Visited Corregidor and walked part of the Bataan route and remembered Mr. Maurana as I did. Thank you for your service to our country.

    I was also unaware you never had a marching band when you arrived at SHS. You certainly seemed like THE authority on marching and music.

    Happy birthday and thank you for the outstanding experiences you provided.

    Betty Flick Cannon

    Comment by Betty Flick Cannon — October 22, 2008 @ 8:24 pm | Reply



    Comment by Donna Yatsko — October 22, 2008 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  31. Just want to thank you for all you did for the Saegertown Marching Band. You were such a great leader, friend, and mentor. My days as a member of the Saegertown Marching Band are my most fond memories of high school. Marching in the ruts, learning the routines, and making such great friends, marching in the heat, rain and once in the snow at Pitt Statium, where I lost one of my shoes, was such a rewarding and proud experience. You were always so kind to all of us even if we didn’t listen to you all of the time. My brother Skip Sheakley was a teacher at Saegertown which didn’t always make it easy for me, but it never affected our relationship as a teacher and a student.You were and are the best!!!!!! I wish you a Happy, Happy Birthday and just wanted to let you know that I think of you often. I’ve often wondered where you were and what great things you had accomplished. I live in Charleston SC have two kids, 5 grandchildren. Thinking of you and May God bless you!!!!!

    Judi Sheakley Taylor

    Comment by Judi Sheakley Taylor — October 22, 2008 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

  32. HAPPY 85th BIRTHDAY, MR. B!
    Love and cherish you as a phenomenal inspiration, Mr.B
    Blessings on your 85th!
    MARITA (zalenski) HIGGINS
    class of ’67
    Cary, North Carolina

    Comment by Marita (Zalenski) Higgins — October 23, 2008 @ 1:39 pm | Reply


    It is so good to see your face again..My whole family was in the OHS band.
    My mom, her brother was drum major in his day.
    I never played, but my brother did. Shawn Williams. You are amazing, and the fondest memories of OHS is the marching band.

    You made us PROUD!!!


    Comment by Cheryl Williams — October 23, 2008 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  34. Dear Mr. B,

    Happy Birthday! What a wonderful occasion for you. I am in remission from lymphoma and my mother just was diagnosed with cancer. Your website gives us hope and inspiration.

    That is what you always did for us. I often think of those long summer practices and wonder how we did it. Maybe because we were 40 years younger? But there are so many memories that I will always have in my heart thanks to Mr. B.

    My mother and I now live in Carmel, Indiana and I enjoyed 30 years as a pediatric occupational therapist. But, I just have to put in the tape of the OHS band and I am immediately returned to Oberlin. You created magic for all of us. I always hope to see a band that did what we did, but I am always disappointed. I just want to play the tape for everyone so they see what can be accomplished.

    The best to you and I hope that you continue to fight through the journey of health issues. You are so special to so many people. Happy Birthday and all the best to a special teacher and mentor.

    Judy McRoberts, OHS, class of 67

    Comment by Judy McRoberts — October 23, 2008 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  35. Mr B……how that name has resounded in the lives of so many people. As a member of the very first Oberlin “little band that could”, I cherished the drive and pride that you instilled in so many young people. That first year, we came to understand the nature of that drive and vision of our new found leader through your quick wit, smiles, laughter, and never-ending stories. That first 55 member band was the loudest small band you could ever hear, and we played our hearts out every trip to the field of action. I was lucky enough to be on the uniform committee later that year and to be in the first “new” much larger band with the white sousaphones blazing trails on the marching field my senior year. The pride of the band, the school, and the community changed that day. Even the laid back local college students used to come hang over the fences at halftime of the home games to catch a glimpse of the marching band in action. One of the proudest moments of that first “new” year was the perfect show we put on at the end of the year against Medina, who had always been THE band of the SW conference. The praise that we received from their members brought home how far we had come in such a short time. Every time we performed, we brought new fans into the fold, and the concert band was every bit as good, bringing top honors every time we performed at state. I personally have fond memories of Mr B off the field, too. I truly enjoyed going to the college practice fields to try to help you with your golf swing during my senior year….don’t know if it helped at all in the long run, but it was memorable to me anyway. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR B!

    David W. Williams
    LtCol USAF (Ret)
    OHS Class of 1963

    Comment by Dave Williams — October 24, 2008 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

  36. Hi. Mr. Bllingsly this is Grover Slater, tenor sax player from 1957 to 1962, in the Greatest Band in the Land! Everyone needs good memories from ones childhood and I have lots because of you and your dedication to our band years together. I am now a retired high school art teacher and your guidance and example guided me through much of my career and life. I am so glad to tell you that whenever I get praise from past students; you share in the credit. Music is still in my life, Grover

    Comment by Grover C. Slater — October 26, 2008 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  37. Hello Jim, First of all I want to say that it has been my pleasure throughout many years now of calling you my friend. You and I and Kathleen have spent many times together having a laughing good time. I will always remember how much of a help you were to me when I started college 18 years ago. You were a great source of encouragement and comfort to me back then. Remember how we use to met for breakfast and you and Kath would read over my papers for me? I also remember how you hooked me up with tutors that I needed back then. You are like the energizer bunny Jim you just keep going and going. I love the fact that you have been in my life for all of these years and that we can still get together from time to time to visit and laugh together. I have always enjoyed your company and always will. Have a wonderful birthday from your friend Wanda.

    Comment by Wanda Lance — October 26, 2008 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  38. Hey grandpa happy 85th birthday, thats quite an achievement. Me and you have been through alot. You have taught me alot of things. We know things about each other that no one else will ever know, that’s something special. You have always been here for me, and i will always be here for you. Buddys to the end.

    Love, Nick

    Comment by Nick Thompson — October 27, 2008 @ 1:33 am | Reply

  39. i graduated in 1978 and Mr B was not only a great band director but was also a friend. If u were ever upset or down, he was there to try to help u. He was strict but fair and i loved being under him. He put the swing back into the band and never let us give up Happy birthday Mr B u are soooo loved

    Comment by Julie Brown — October 27, 2008 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  40. Happy Birthday, Mr Billingsley

    I enjoyed reading your biography and am impressed by all the contributions you have made over your lifetime…so far…may there be many more years for the world to benefit from your spirit. I am inspired by your determination and continued contributions…thank you.

    Although I was not a member of the Saegertown High School marching band, I was very proud of the band and of the contributions to our community. I still take pride in the picture in our senior yearbook of you and President Nixon, surrounded by band members. Who would have ever thought such an achievement would come from “little old Saegertown”!! Recently my brother, John Rogan, also an SHS grad, and I were at a football game with our families (we both have been long-time residents of Florida) and we saw the Grambling marching band, a nationally renouned band, perform at half-time. We looked at each other after the performance, shook our heads, and both said “Not as good as Saegertown!!!”.

    Happy Birthday and many more.

    Warm regards,
    Sue Rogan Pinkerton, Class of 1960, Saegertown High School

    Comment by Sue Rogan Pinkerton — October 27, 2008 @ 1:15 pm | Reply

  41. Hello Mr. B
    I justed wanted to wish you a Happy 85th.
    I really enjoyed being in band and having you
    as our director. Couldn’t have ask for a better
    I have been married for 40 years, have two boys. Five grandchilden, two boys and three girls.
    Hope you had a great birthday.
    Marilyn(Goff)Garfield Class of 67

    Comment by Marilyn (Goff) Garfield — October 28, 2008 @ 12:22 am | Reply

  42. Happy 85th Birthday Mr. B!! You can’t be 85 already! Where did the time go? I can’t begin to tell you how much it meant for me to be in the Massillon Tiger Swing Band and have YOU as the director! Those were the best days of my young life. Nearly all of my best friends were in the band and we simply had a blast.

    Of course, it wasn’t all fun, but I certainly learned many life lessons from you. For example, we were practicing to go to the Macy’s parade up on the hill, and apparently we weren’t trying very hard. You let us know, in no uncertain terms, that we had better get our stuff together or you were going to make a call and gets lights out on that field….we would stay until we got it right. Seeing as it was November and kind of cold, I think that got our attention right quick. On a sadder note was when we lost Doug Spies. I remember you calling us all up in the stands to tell us. Then you called us into rank and there was dead silence, except for cries of sadness and the sniffling of noses. We were dismissed.

    I honestly believe that the Mr. B era was the most exciting “swing” band that Massillon ever had. The pre-game where we double-timed into the stadium, the turn arounds, and I still miss the Alma Mater where the drums were so prominent. Oh, and of course, drum major Heywood McGriff, may he rest in peace. He was simply awesome and added to the already amazing band that we had. Thank you so very much for everything and enjoy your 85th birthday.

    Trumpet player grade 10, and Majorsweat grades 11 and 12 – class of 1976.

    Comment by Cheryl Carter Ellis — October 28, 2008 @ 1:06 am | Reply

  43. Happy Birthday!

    My memories of Saegertown revolve around flutes (sax in the marching band),friendships, band practices and the trips that you made possible. The ruts in our practice field were evidence of how much time and effort it took to turn us into an award winning marching band. Thank you for the opportunity to experience and learn so many different things.

    My oldest grandaughter marched in her first parade last week. I had to laugh when she complained about the horses. I had forgotten how tough some of those bows at the end of a performance could be.

    Thank you again for the wonderful memories. I hope your birthday is filled with as many wonderful memories as you have made for us.

    Joan Judd Britt

    Comment by Joan Judd Britt — October 28, 2008 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  44. As George Bailey said, you’ve had a “Wonderful Life.” I remember fondly of my time in the band. You made us better because you believed in us and drove us to make ourselves better. You focused on the details. I even remember how mad you got at me when I didn’t shine my shoes. That was the last time I let that happen.

    Seriously, congrats Mr. B. May your life be full of happiness and good fortune. I know that you made an indelible impression on me.

    Comment by Bobby Groner — October 28, 2008 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  45. Dear Jim, I think back to our first meeting when Wellington played Oberlin which was,I believe, your first show in Ohio. I remember the great band directors of the time and do you remember ALMACOW? Having you as a friend in those early years was excitement at every turn. I can’t remember the many times we sat and solved the problems of the music world as well as other problems. I may have moved from high school to university but there have been NO days that have compared to the great fun times we had. Hard to believe we have been friends nearly fifty years. I guess that is the mark of a great friend and you certainly are one. It has been my privilege to know you and have you as a friend all these years. I hope we have another 50 to talk about. Take care my dear friend and buddy. Bill Shepherd, University of Northern Iowa

    Comment by Bill Shepherd — October 29, 2008 @ 8:31 pm | Reply

  46. Warm greetings, Mr. B!

    Did you have a lasting influence on the Pillemer family? Steve, Eric and I can still do Sweet Georgia Brown–no problem. Shuffle-turn, shuffle-turn, schuffle-turn, schuffle-turn, step-kick-back-turn, step-swish-step-together. Memories of the OHS Marching Band, and of you, are still fresh. They bring back a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Thanks for all you did for us.

    Warmest Regards,

    Dave Pillemer Steve Pillemer
    Class of ’68 Class of ’67

    Comment by Dave Pillemer — October 29, 2008 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  47. Mr B

    It has been a long time hasn’t it; and I doubt that there is much I can add that would be of unique substance. Like so many others, my life has been altered for the good by your influence.

    A lot of people were of the mistaken impression that you were teaching music; but I know better, as do many others who fell under your spell. What I gained from you had little to do with music, but much to do with living successfully. I retired from teaching about two and a half years ago. I was a recreation and tourism professor, at least that was my title. But my experiences, so many years ago in Saegertown served as a constant reminder that I was teaching something infinitely more important than recreation and tourism; I was teaching individuals, individuals who needed my support and my assurance that they could succeed. My academic title was of little importance.

    I also carried that conviction with me to the People’s Republic of China where I twice taught at universities and found the same hopes and dreams, the same worries and fears. Thank you for giving me something worth sharing with them.

    Currently my wife and I are serving as missionaries in Pachuca Mexico.

    Best wishes John Bailey, Saegertown Band 1957-61

    Comment by John W Bailey — October 30, 2008 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

  48. Mr. B,

    I am in my 50’s now, and I still remember your high energy, high standards, and above all your commitment to excellence. I will always feel fortunate in meeting you in my early teens, and I will continue to carry your high standards which you demanded from yourself and gently enforced upon your students. I still can see you guiding us through a routine and never tiring. Happy Birthday!!!!!

    Much Love,

    Kim Cupari

    Comment by Kim Cupari — October 31, 2008 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

  49. Happy birthday, Mr B!! Goodness, it doesn’t seem like that long ago when “we” were the famous Saegertown Marching Band! I still run into people who remember and ask if I was in that great band! How famous you are!!! Recently I came across an old “poop” sheet, as we called our routine directions. It was St Louis Blues and I was able to “perform most of it in my living room for my grandkids! Amazing how all that is still in my head!!! Thanks to you for all you taught us about band and life back in the 50’s. You are such a big part of alot of our lives. I have a daughter living in Massillon and I tell her how you patterned alot of our “steps” from the Massillon band. Have a wonderful birthday! You are loved by so many. Janet Kightlinger Stratiff ’60

    Comment by Janet Kightlinger Stratiff — October 31, 2008 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  50. Happy 85th Mr. B!! It just doesn’t seem possible that time has went by so fast. I have the best memories of our Oberlin High School Band. I will still see bands on TV and shout to my husband, that band can’t even compare to ours, look they don’t even swing their instruments!! It was a family for me, our Chicago trip, Cleveland, Dayton, memories that stay with me forever. Thank you for giving that to me and being the very best band leader.
    Sandy Bittner Walls marjorette class of 67

    Comment by Sandy Bittner Walls — October 31, 2008 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  51. Gee Jim, You’re having a party. And not just any party, 85 years! I can’t say that I remember the band (I was never in your band) but for the last 20 some years you have been one of my favorite people…and one of my biggest cheerleaders. Thank you for all the kind words to a fellow artist. And don’t tell me that the tile you designed and laid for us isn’t a work of art. It is! To all the New Years Eves, to all the good times. I leave you with these words.

    We’ll Have a Good Time At Your @#$^%$#&& Party! Ah Shucks!


    Comment by Linda Mertus — November 1, 2008 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  52. Hi Mr. B!!

    Happy 85th birthday!! Over the years, Steve Johnson, my cousin, has kept me updated with what you were doing. I always smile when I remember dipping little light bulbs in blue paint in the Clap’s basement, many of us sitting around card tables! I remember concert band competitions when we had to sight read a new piece of music and you’d ‘march’ us through the piece. We could see you sweating bullets and we wanted more than anything to make you proud of what we did with our sight reading.

    Music has always been an important part of my life. Paul and I had two girls together. Our oldest, Shellie, was in the marching band at Northrop High School, one of the largest high schools in Indiana with over 2,000 kids. Her senior year she was head field commander. Our bands here have state competitions in the former RCA Dome in Indy. What fond memories of watching our Oberlin marching band came to mind as I saw our Shellie, standing on a podium, 20 feet high, in the Dome!! Our youngest daughter, Carrie, took her love of music to dancing.

    I have been a teacher, second grade, for 23 years. We never know what kind of an impact we will have on our students. You certainly modeled discipline, organization, love of music, hard work, and friendship. Thanks you for being one of those ‘special’ teachers!

    Ann McComb, oboe, concert band

    Comment by Ann Oliphant Dixon McComb — November 2, 2008 @ 1:45 am | Reply

  53. Dear Mr. Billingsley,
    Congratulations on celebrating your 85th birthday! That is wonderful!!!

    I am still so proud to have been a majorette in the famous Saegertown Marching Band. Those were the days…band is what I have always missed the most about high school. I looked forward to learning new routines each week. I thank you for your patience. I wasn’t so sure about concert band because I had to learn to play an instrument. However, as a result, I can read music! Thanks. Thank you for those wonderful memories.

    God Bless…Angie Bugbee Maitland

    Comment by Angie Bugbee Maitland — November 2, 2008 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  54. Jim, I met you when I was 15. When Mom married you a year later, she gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life by making you my father. You are a man who, at 59, was willing to take on the responsibilities of a ready-made family, and go through all the agonies of parenting teenagers all over again, and you did it with enthusiasm, humor, patience, and an enormous amount of love. I credit my own happy marriage to the example that you provided; because I had seen your respect, appreciation, and affection for my mom, I was able to recognize those traits in Penn. No matter what I’ve done in my life, I’ve never had a bigger supporter than I do in you, or a more constant friend. You have never failed to be there for me, or for anyone in our family. Your humor alone has become legendary, and has shaped our lexicon of nicknames, jokes, and sayings. For 25 years now, you have inspired me, believed in me, and helped to make me who I am.

    Jim, I love you more than you can ever know,
    Tood 🙂

    Comment by Susan Farr — November 2, 2008 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

  55. Jim, before you met me, Susan had told me a little about you. Said she, “You are easy to get along with. You like everyone, everyone likes you. Instantly. You have great stories from the past, having experienced the Depression, the War, and a phenomenal teaching career.”

    Upon meeting you, eighteen years ago, I knew Susan was right. Instantly. Now, I would like to thank you for a few things. First, thanks for being accepting. Even when you and I met, you approved of my dating Susan. And thank you for helping. You never tell me what to do, but give me guidance. Your experience and knowledge have influenced and changed my life for the better.

    Most of all, Jim, thanks for being a friend. You have shown nothing but kindness, never critical, always fun to be with. I love you, Jim.


    Comment by Penn Farr — November 2, 2008 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

  56. Dear Jim

    You have been a terrific brother in law and true friend. I want to wish you the happiest BIRTHDAY.

    I can’t ever forget our tiling experiences, especially the one in the basement when we tiled and listened to the USC / Notre Dame game. I’m not sure we got a lot done but we sure enjoyed the game.

    I wish you many more celebrations.

    Best to you always. Your wisdom has been an inspiration to me.


    Comment by Carl — November 4, 2008 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  57. Dear Mr, B,

    Wow! 85 years! Congratulations!

    The thing I remember most about being around you is your humor. On one bus trip, you said that our having gone over two bridges had built up static electicity, and we should all put our hands on the windows to “dispel” it. Once we did, you asked, “Feel the pane?” I hope you feel no pain on your birthday!

    Love, Jeanne WHS Class of ’72

    Comment by Jeanne Demmer Hartzog — November 4, 2008 @ 7:39 am | Reply

  58. Dear, dear Mr. B-

    Not only did you instill in me a strong work ethic and a true love for all things musical, you were my first “mentor”. Now, as a university professor, I have a true understanding of that word and of how important it is to have one!

    Being a mentor is a long-term commitment. It means that you have dedicated yourself to helping to shape folks’ character, as well as their careers. It means being there for them when they excell and when they fail. It is helping them to understand their role in the GESTALT – something bigger than they are on their own. This is what being in the band, orchestra, quartet, quintet and all things musical at Oberlin meant to me.

    I now live near Lincoln Center in NYC where I am able to go to Symphony, Opera, Ballet at the drop of a hat…. and I do. Thanks to you.

    I wish you the very best on your special day.

    Love, Deborah Haller
    OHS Class of ’69 (flute)

    Comment by Deborah Haller — November 4, 2008 @ 1:48 pm | Reply

  59. Mr. B,

    As a 1976 graduate and 3 year member of the marching ,concert ,and symphonic band,I think of all of the memories that were created in my life because of your relationship with me,and all students who chose to be a part of the band. Your ability to inspire all students,your patience with the “teenage” mentality,your never ending commitment to us as kids growing into adulthood,are qualities that make you the special human being that you are.The bonds and friendships created during band are still a precious part of my life.Celebrate your birthday and life Mr. B. I can think of no-one more deserving.Your love of music and teamwork, on behalf of thousands of kids lucky enough to be taught by you will always be felt every time I enter Massillon Stadium.

    Happy Birthday!!!

    Cindy Scott

    Comment by Cindy Scott — November 4, 2008 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  60. HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!! MR. B.
    Sorry I couldn’t be there for your birthday celebration. Just wanted to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and THANK YOU for all of your guidance and inspiration during my years of high school, in the concert and marching band. I have a lot great memories and experiences that I wouldn’t have had without you and your program! I also want you to know that I still think of you often; my wife, Rochelle, drinks her Carnation Instant Breakfast everyday out of my marching band glasses, one of which (1973) has your picture on it, so I get to look at your “mug shot” every several days. Thank you for instiling in me, to strive for PERFECTION (like you do)in everything I do. Our friendship and “working together”, that grew after high school days, has been some of the best times of my life, that I will cherish always!!! Say hello to your wonderful wife, Kathleen, that has brought much deserved happiness to your life.
    Your Buddy

    Comment by Fred Burau — November 4, 2008 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

  61. Hi Jim,

    I want to thank you for the encouragement when I was ill. You were certainly right when you said ” you do what you have to” if you want to survive and get better. I enjoyed our talks about all the uses for “red” nail polish. You always had encouraging words–no matter what endeavor I was embarking upon. We both agreed being in business was a pain in the ass sometimes but we would not do anything else. God Bless, Jim – you are one of the “good” ones I include in my prayers. I will always come over for Kathleen & you when needed.

    Lots of COOOOOKIES & HUGS. You’re favorite sister-in-law


    Comment by Bonnie — November 5, 2008 @ 12:46 am | Reply

  62. Happy 85th Birthday, Mr. B!!!

    I wish you a wonderful celebration, fitting for such a wonderful person. I was very lucky to be under your guidance in the Massillon Tiger Swing Band, and I cherish those great memories! Along with music and marching steps, I learned so much from you – team work, discipline, appreciation, humor, hard work and how to get along in life. Our band marching in the Macy’s Parade was awesome and makes me proud every time I think about it! I participated in Alumni Band until I moved to Rochester, NY in 1996. Thanks for sharing your life with us band kids – I treasure all that I have learned from you!!

    God bless you and your family, on your Birthday and always!

    Sue Gerber
    Massillon Tiger Swing Band, Trumpet, 1972-1975

    Comment by Sue Gerber — November 5, 2008 @ 2:52 am | Reply

  63. Happy 85th Birthday, Mr. “B”!

    I don’t know where to start to thank you for all that you gave of yourself. Mostly though, thank you for teaching the love of music and the discipline it takes to put it all together into a complete “show”. The lessons you taught have been carried through my life…gee, my youngest son wanted to move to Massillon to be in the Tiger Swing Band! The Greatest Show in Football! Have a fabulous birthday! You are an inspiration!
    God Bless You!
    Cheryl Schuster Clarinet 1972-75

    Comment by Cheri Schuster — November 5, 2008 @ 4:42 am | Reply

  64. Happy Birthday,Mr. Billingsley!!!

    As others have commented, you had a profound influence on my early life at Saegertown High School and even more in the 48 years since I left Saegertown. You introduced me to music and the cornet. And music has been a foundation of my life ever since. I love to sing and have sung in several church choirs, I sing Karaoke, and a sing and play my acoustic guitar, just for my personal enjoyment. I still have my original cornet–it was handed down to my brother, Ron, and then to my sister Kaye’s nephew–it was used directly in bands for over twenty years. And it was refurbished three times during that period (needs it again now). I still play it some–usually at parties I have at Christmas time and in church choir also at Christmas.
    As I mentioned, I also play guitar and sing. To no one’s surprise, I picked up the guitar at Penn State around 1962…Seemed to attract coeds. Probably still does.
    Even important to the rest of my life was your teaching that hard work will always pay off and there is nothing that cannot be accomplished if we are committed. I took engineering at PSU, basically because that was the thing to do in those days (Sputnik and all). Probably I got through the difficult curriculum for which I volunteered because of the discipline that you instilled in us all. And I still continued my interest in music and writing (a la Ken Gibbons). Believe it or not, these skills fit with engineering. As you well know, music is basically mathematics and a form of communication, as is writing. After PSU, I moved in 1967 to Florida to work for an communications outfit called Harris. I left them two years ago due to a disabling illness.
    I was so dedicated to work that I truly missed it for awhile. But now I realize that I have time to do what I love to do. This is music, writing and of course, fishing, hunting and spending time with my family and friends.
    In fact, I am in the middle of writing an novel, partly on my life with all the places and people changed (Saegertown High School becomes Haegertown High School, etc….). It will be a mystery/thriller partly based on my work with special US agencies, etc. And, of course, has a marching band in it.
    You also taught me that we can come up with new ideas and approaches to old, existing approaches (like marching bands)…in fact, that there is no limit to what our imagination can achieve. I really didn’t realize at the time that you created the Saegertown Marching Band nearly from nothing.
    I knew that you were in the service and it was obvious that you brought your dedication to hard work and discipline from your experiences there. Actually, I, and probably all of us, did not even realize that it was absolutely impossible to perform a different show each week during football season!!!
    I have often gone back to the our marching field behind SHS with those deep ruts for years, just to get pumped up on what you/we achieved there.
    My involvement in the trip and performance at the Soldier’s Field was also profound. To all of us from little old Saegertown that was a phenomenal experience. I have never been afraid to speak or perform in front of large crowds, since playing in the center of that field. (Well, maybe not never, probably just a little, I guess). And none of us got in trouble at our hotel (I think)!
    You also taught us all to be competitive. As I remember it, we won all or almost all of our marching band competitions. This also gave me a great starting point in what was to be my career for over forty years. In the mostly government work that I was involved in, all work is won through severe competition. I was ready and actually got a lot of my satisfaction from this aspect of my career.
    You are probably getting tired of reading this since it is so long, but I truly need a book to address all the ways you had an enormous, positive effect on my life. And you and the band will appear in one of my novels (again, all names changed, places, years, era, etc…).
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you have down for me, my family, and others precious to me.
    And I look forward to seeing you some time soon.
    You have a forever invitation to visit me in Palm Bay, Florida at my condo on the Indian River.
    Your friend and student, always and evermore.

    You probably guess that I still remember it allll….STEP, KICK, BACK, TURN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Rich Phelan
    Saegertown High School Marching Band and Concert Band
    Cornet, 1957 to 1960
    November 5, 2008
    Dover, Delaware

    You can reach me as follows:


    H. Richard Phelan
    145 Kings Highway, Apt. 302
    Dover, DE 19901



    Comment by Rich Phelan — November 5, 2008 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  65. I still remember your first meeting with the Tiger Swing Band. You gave an inspirational speech about your seeing the Tiger Swing Band as a child and how impressed you were. You talked about your vision to restore the “swing” of the traditional style. But one of your last comments as you wrapped up that speech was concerning the students continuation with the band. Basically you said, you either want to be part of this, or you don’t..so, “Don’t do me any favors…quit.” I love that quote, it has stayed with me for a life-time. While my career as a band director while short-lived, my success in life is as a result of your inspiration during my junior and senior years at WHS. I have often listed you as one of the most influential people in my life. By the way, I was your first Drum Major at WHS.

    Wishing you many more happy years.


    Jay “John” Edel, WHS ’72
    Findlay Ohio

    Comment by John "Jay" Edel — November 5, 2008 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  66. First I would Like to thank Jim for going to the Pacific to save my butt while I, as a mere child, was safe at home during WW2, The BIG one. Second for all the good times we have had yukin’ it up whenever we are able to get together.
    Happy Birthday Jim, and many more! John Hoffman also sends his best.

    Buddy, Joe

    Comment by Joe Fisher — November 5, 2008 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

  67. Happy Birthday Mr. B.
    Happy Birthday Mr. B.
    Happy Birthday Mr. Billingsley,
    Happy Birthday to you!
    (I have been an elementary teacher far too long)

    Enjoy the day and have many more.
    Thanks for the memories!

    Mary Ann Johnson
    OHS ’69

    Comment by Mary Ann Johnson — November 6, 2008 @ 12:04 am | Reply

  68. Happy Birthday Uncle Jim!

    To a great man, and a great Uncle. A man with your wisdom and outlook on life truly deserves to live on as you have… Here ‘s to you living many more years, and touching many more lives.

    Matthew, Shawna, & Aiden Terry

    Comment by Matthew Terry — November 6, 2008 @ 12:11 am | Reply

  69. Happy Birthday Jim,

    I haven’t known you nearly as long or well as these folks, but I am so thankful for the positive role you play in the lives of Jay, Nick and Chloe, the three most special people in my life. Have a great birthday.

    Comment by Meg Gregory — November 6, 2008 @ 12:53 am | Reply

  70. Dear Mister B,

    I’ve just read through the wonderful comments and just missed being #69–darn! I’d like to second what so many have already said. You instilled pride in us and taught us that you have to work hard and work *together* to achieve your goals. You taught us that you can do it if you try… and if you’re good. And we *were* good, thanks to you. Who would have thought that our little high school band would play the Chicago All Stars and set Cleveland Stadium on its ear year after year? (I’ll never forget seeing Jim Brown wander through the ranks while we stood at attention. I thought half the band would faint… but of course no one’s head turned an inch. Discipline!) I have more wonderful memories of my band years than I can possibly say here. It was definitely the best part of my time at Oberlin High, and you can tell that the same goes for many of us. Thank you for that precious experience and have a wonderful 85th with your family and friends.

    Bob Clark (trombone, class of 1969)

    Comment by Bob Clark — November 6, 2008 @ 5:42 am | Reply

  71. Happy Birthday Mr. B …….. I am sure you won’t remember the blur of faces, but I will always appreciate the way you drove us to succeed both on and off the marching field. Have a great day and a wonderful life.

    Comment by Leo Omicinski — November 6, 2008 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  72. Hi Mr. Billingley…
    You will never begin to know what an influence you,Mr Maurana and My Dad had on my life…I marched in the Saegertown Band and graduated 1959 and played clarinet…I always attribute my recovery from the auto accident that left me temporarily paralized to my marching and athletic days at good ole Saegertown. I remember all the work, fun and achievements I had by being in the band.
    Life for me since the accident has not been easy I graduated Villa Maria with a BS in biology and interned in Medical Technology and worked my way across the USA from Pa, Ohio,Hawaii, California and now Arizona.
    My husband who I met in Hawaii, my best friend passed away seven years ago.
    We were married for 35 years and he was my very best friend and always gave me encouragement I only which he could be with me now to see that new technology in bracing that has straighten my walking and now I have no tiring effects…the goal being to walk only assisted by one cane…
    Just had time before getting to work to wish you HAPPY 85th BIRTHDAY !!!

    Darla M Slater Kaauamo (clarinet,class of 1959)

    Comment by DARLA KAAUAMO — November 6, 2008 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  73. Hi Uncle Jim!

    Happy birthday! Frank and I just wanted to let you known that you are a great Uncle. We especially like the fact that you listen to everything that we have to say with a lot of interest. And you always have a conversation back. Frank says that he enjoys the conversations with you about working out and getting “BUFF”. Hope you enjoy you’re 85th birthday.

    Frank, Bronwyn, Matt, Brock and Baby to be Marsh

    Comment by Bronwyn Marsh — November 6, 2008 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  74. Happy Birthday Mr. B,
    Where have all the years gone? The years I spent in the OHS marching and concert bands were some of the best years of my life. Your many “life lessons” have been so valuable to every single young person you ever came in contact with that you will never know the full impact you have made on an entire generation. I didn’t take my music talents further than high school but my life has been dedicated to the healing of the body and mind as a nurse. I even recall your stories of the military and am now Major Elizabeth Simonson, a veteran of the US Army and active reservist! My love of music, love of country, and love of fellow mankind was shaped in part by your influence and I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. I still remember “Old lady Geck”, step kick back turn, and every other inspirational message you imparted to us. May you have a wonderful birthday and enjoy your family and your life to the fullest.
    With deep gratitude and love,

    Major Liz (Kohut) Simonson

    Comment by Liz Kohut Simonson — November 6, 2008 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  75. Dear Mr. B.

    Happy Birthday! and Congratulations!

    I have such fond memories from my band days in high school. I will always cherish those times. Band was my “life”. You always encouraged us to try harder, reach farther. When people ask, who is your favorite teacher, I always answer, I had three favorites, but you are always the first I mention.
    The other two were from grade school.

    I hope you have a wonderful birthday! Enjoy the day! God Bless you! You were an inspiration to many!

    Michelle Snyder-Kirsch (sax-1974)
    Massillon Tiger Swing Band

    Comment by Michelle Snyder-Kirsch — November 6, 2008 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  76. Dear Jim,

    Your love and your humor have meant more to me than I could ever say. There is no one else like you in the world.

    Do you have any idea what a difference it’s made to have you as a father? You are so kind, so generous, so dependable (not the same as predictable, as in “Look at all these cars–doesn’t anybody WORK?”), so down-to-earth, and such a wonderful dad.

    If I hadn’t had you in my life, I wouldn’t know how to do “wingers”, find anything located “over dey”, or go “seepa-bye-lannises”. Just imagine how directionless and tired I would be without you!

    You have been my ol’ buddy through thick and thin, and I want you to know how important that has been to me. You have one of the biggest, most compassionate hearts of anyone I have ever known. I can only hope that when I am 85 I will have loved as much and inspired as many people as you. No, there definitely is no one else like you, and there never will be. Have a wonderful and happy birthday.

    Love you always,
    Jen (Fur)

    Comment by Jenny Thompson — November 6, 2008 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  77. Jim,

    The first time around you were aware of me before I knew you, as I was a young friend of your son. The second time when you and my sister did the wise thing and became a couple the whole Terry family was blessed. You are a true and generous family man that I am honored to call my friend.
    You will be going down at golf this weekend.

    Happy birthday with much love,

    Comment by David — November 6, 2008 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  78. Dear Grandpa,
    I wish I could come to your birthday. I have whooping cough and it`s bad for you and infants. I love going to get doughnuts with you, I love going to Chuck.E.Cheese`s with you, but most of all, I love you.
    I am too sick to come to the party, but even though you can`t see me there with you, I`m still with you…
    In your heart.








    Annis lover


    Peace & Love

    Comment by Chloe Thompson — November 6, 2008 @ 8:55 pm | Reply


    Jim – You are easily one of my very favorite people in the whole world. You’ve lived a fascinating life and have spent it giving gifts to people far and wide to carry with us the rest of our lives. Gifts like putting yourself in harm’s way in the service of your country, teaching the joy of making music, creating beautiful pieces of art, and my favorite – a life lesson in persistence and courage. I think of you often and am So happy that I’ve had the chance to know you. You’ve been a father figure and a friend to me and I wish you joy and peace and happiness for the rest of your life. Have a happy birthday and many more!


    Comment by Jay Thompson — November 6, 2008 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

  80. Dearest Jim,

    Thank you for all the wonderful years. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without you in it. Through good times and bad, you have been my best friend and the most loving and supportive husband anyone could ever have. And hasn’t it been fun along the way? Yes, there have been some difficult times, but your steadfast determination to overcome all setbacks has been an inspiration and your wacky sense of humor and upbeat attitude no matter what is going on have lightened those times. All of us have been blessed to have you in our family…and I’ve been blessed most of all!! Let’s have lots more years together, okay?

    Love you forever!
    Happy Birthday,

    Comment by Kathleen — November 6, 2008 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  81. Mr. B – Congrats on your 85th birthday. If you are 85, that makes me … well a lot older than when i was in the MTSB!! Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication which helped mold so many into the adults we are today. You taught us that self discipline and hard work could let us achieve things that many others only dreamed of. Your efforts truly touched so many lives, includng mine. I wish you all the best and, looking back, I thank you for so many wonderful memories and friends that came from my years in the band.

    With love and thanks,
    Kathy Kolich (MTSB 1974-76)

    Comment by kathy Kolich — November 8, 2008 @ 4:42 am | Reply

  82. Several summers ago Mr. B. launched into a project. He had written a book about “how to” create a show band. This was largely a reaction to the plethora of “corps style” bands that have sprung up— with concert band music on the field with complete with props—- but also a testimony to the important work he had done as a band director. I was lucky enough to “edit” his first manuscript for him and we spent three amazing days not only reviewing his text, but also reliving all of the wonderful memories. This is a man who made a difference in so many lives. I will always cherish that special time together. I wrote an introduction to the book which I will reproduce here….

    Can one man change a town? Jim Billingsley did. As a matter of fact, he changed northern Ohio and I was there to be part of it.

    It was an era ripe for change, for the common marching band mode was to shuffle onto the field, face the home stands, play a few tunes, and exit to the strains of the school song. Billingsley burst into this environment like a rocket and shook everyone and everything up.

    He arrived in Oberlin in 1961, fresh from an array of successes in Saegertown, PA, but we knew nothing of his past fame. (Much later I learned that Saegertown, under his leadership, had become the premiere band of Pennsylvania and had performed in any number of pretigious venues). To us, he was just the new guy in town, but everyone took notice very quickly! I’ll never forget seeing that first band of his. The clunky, gangly uniforms were the same, but the marchers inside of them had new energy. They lifted their legs, thighs parallel to the ground; they dashed onto the field triple time; they pointed their toes into kicks and turns; they danced while playing and brought all of us in the stands immediately to our feet. We’d never seen anything like it and I said to my dad, “Some day I’m going to be in that band!”

    Apparently I was not the only one to react in that manner because by the following season the band had doubled in size and had alternates on the sidelines just waiting for a chance for a spot. The Board of Education invested in flashy new uniforms, eight marching sousaphones and the band took on a totally new look. Invitations poured in from all over the state as the band’s fame grew beyond our local area.

    When I was in eighth grade it was time to train for the band. Three weeks in June were spent learning all of the basic dance steps, drilling 8 steps to 5 yards and having the concept of discipline pounded into us. At least ten of us in the group would not have spots in the band come fall so we all worked hard to prove ourselves. When the list went up and I was on it, I breathed a huge sigh of relief……then I entered into one of the most significant experiences of my life….. being part of the Oberlin High School Marching Band.

    We practiced every week day in August to prepare for the season and each day cars lined our practice field just to watch. Jim Billingsley became our “Mr. B.” He led us with skill, creativity, determination and love. We were “his kids.” We mattered to him and we knew it…..and because of that we came to matter to everyone in town. The pride he instilled in us spread into the entire community. In every practice we gave 110% because if we didn’t, we’d never be able to give it in the show. And the show was the thing.

    Friday nights in Oberlin were magic. We lined up behind the bus garage, out of sight of the stadium seats. As time for pregame arrived a hush would fall over the stands, then the drums would start and we’d high step onto the field, thrilling fans on both sides of the field.

    In those days we performed a combined “Star Spangled Banner” with the band from the opposing team. Years later, as an adult, I attended a graduation party in a neighboring town. My husband introduced me to the woman sitting next to me and made reference to the fact that we had both been in band at the same time. When she realized I had been in the Oberlin band she told me this story.

    She had been a majorette in her band and after they had taken the field, her squad was in a position with the right knee up in front and the left leg extended behind. As visiting band, Oberlin came on second. She said that the ground shook when we took the field and she got so excited that she began to urinate!

    That reaction was, perhaps, a bit extreme, but I do know that she was not the only one impressed by our style, our excitement, our discipline because everyplace we went others began to immitate us. Suddenly dance steps were everywhere. Amazingly bands began to swing their instruments. No one seemed to just sashay onto the field anymore. Everyone wanted to clone Oberlin!

    The summer before my sophomore year we doubled up rehearsals in July in order to march a the Chicago All Star game. The Chicago Tribune paid all of our expenses for Greyhouse busses, plus hotel and meals for three days. “Anyone can go anywhere as long as they pay their own way,” Mr. B. said, “but you know you’re somebody if they pay to have you.” The Chicago experience solidified our belief that we were, indeed, “somebody.”

    We practiced for two hours each morning and two and a half hours each night to prepare. There was no longer a single line of cars along our field, rather spectators two and three cars deep. A local newspaper sent a reporter along with us to Chicago to send back daily stories. One story quoted “B.” as saying, “That night, my and my kids are going to swing like you wouldn’t believe.” And, we did.

    Imagine Soldier Field on a mild August night filled with football fans witnessing a blow out game where the pros were squashing the All Stars. My parents were sitting next to a couple who got up to leave at half time.

    “Where do you think you’re going?” my mother asked the complete strangers. “These kids have worked too hard for you to leave now, so I suggest you sit down and watch!” Stunned, they did. After the show was over, they thanked her. Know why? We DID swing like you wouldn’t believe and as we marched around the track we got a full stadium standing ovation in a professional football setting! It was unheard of, but no one had seen the likes of us.

    Back in the locker room, instead of jumping around jubilantly, we cried. All of us did. We had worked and worked and had achieved beyond what any of us had expected. It was a night I will never, ever forget and it was all possible because of this wonderful man who had come to lead us. It was all because of the style, the discipline, the energy, the love, the dedication that he instilled in all of us.

    As we were working on this book I learned that Mr. B. had come to Oberlin because he had run down his health by exhausting himself with his incredibly successful Saegertown band. In ____short years he had started a program where none had previously existed, and built it to the point that this small town group was invited to perform in England. Needing a respite, he applied in Oberlin and forged an agreement with our superintendent. News of his previous successes were kept under raps and he was allowed to step back and build our program more slowly. If, the agreement went, his position at Oberlin didn’t work out, he would leave quietly at the end of his first year. Thankfully, it didn’t turn out that way. He was with us for a decade, transforming our town, northern Ohio, but mostly shaping so many of our lives in the most positive way possible.

    I had five glorious years as part of this group. It all happened forty years ago, but it’s as though it was yesterday. Reliving those memories with my cherished Mr. B. as we worked on this manuscript, sitting next to him on my recliner as we watched our old films, has made me all the more grateful that once in my life I was part of something truly great.

    Read this manual. Absorb his advice. You, too, can make your kids “swing like you wouldn’t believe,” and who knows, maybe you, too, can change a whole town.

    Pat Gorske Price, October 16, 2005

    Comment by Pat Gorske Price — November 8, 2008 @ 2:38 pm | Reply

  83. Dear Mr. B,
    I am so happy to hear that you are 85! Last year, I was told that you had died! I’m really glad you’re not dead!!
    Seriously, it has been like a reunion to read the comments from so many friends @ Obie. Most everything has been said…a picture of a violin player in the News Tribune to be our new leader, 1st year – 55 strong, 3 basses, 2 french horns! Geoff Wilson and Doug Hoover ( bet you never marched with French horns before!) making the lights in Clapp’s basement – turning them on and watching them burn out due to too much power! Wearing our uniforms to practice @ Cleveland stadium and replacing Barberton HS to play for the Brown’s game in the double header. The ruts! White sousaphones, new uniforms, Sat night game @ Cleveland, band festivals @ Vermillion, Oberlin and Akron, a concert band that was better than the marching band and memories that will last a lifetime. Crisp white shirt, spit shined black shoes, spats, riding on Bob Wallace’s shoulders after TD’s by our great football team, I could go on and on.
    The one memory I have that is unique is when you gave a clinic @ some SE Ohio school and you asked me to go with you. We went down and met with the HS directors first and you had me demonstrate some of our moves. The rest of the band followed and gave a show in some cow pasture – I think it was Hebron, O.!! I also remember giving the majorettes all our solo and ensemble meadals to wear. They had the most decorated chests in Ohio! Thanks to you, I can still out sight read most music majors and directors of groups I still sing and play in. 1 e-and-a,2-e-and-ah, 1-la-lee,2-la-lee. Discipline!!!! We all still compare marching bands to what we experienced with you and….they all come up short! Thank you!!
    All the best to you on your 85th birthday! You will always remain in my heart and thoughts!

    Sincerely, Doug Hoover aka Hug Doover

    ps. All you OHS grads – this is a good chance to reconnect. I’d love to hear from you. Email me @ dhoover@woh.rr.com.

    Comment by Doug Hoover — November 10, 2008 @ 1:55 am | Reply

  84. Mr. B, Oh, the book most of us could write about the band! I doubt that there are any former bandmembers that wouldn’t agree that you prepared us for the future world we faced after graduation better than almost all other teachers put together. You taught us what the real world would expect from us…hard work, respect for each other, discipline and determination. These attributes for me have translated from band to jobs, to my lifelong love of horses, to my artwork and entrepeneuership and any success I have attained in these areas I believe came from the basics about work and human relationships you taught us. In almost 50 years of owning and showing horses, I have used the discipline to help me both train and compete in areas where my horses (as a breed) and I (as a woman) had not been before. I now compete in a three phase competition that requires my horses to complete a “marathon” pulling a carriage with me and a navigator. I conditioned them for this much as you conditioned us on the marching field. We work as a team, much as our ranks did on the field. We are only as good as the weakest part, much as the band was only as good as our weakest member. All the stall cleaning, grooming, many, many hours of training in good weather and horrible mud and rain is just a part of the whole package. We didn’t just walk out on the field and play, we practiced the music, then the steps, then the whole routine, and THEN the performance. And perform we did…when we stepped out on the field, it was magic.

    I remember the first year I was in the band. It was the last year my brother was in the band and when the ranks were announced, my name was called for Doug Hoover’s rank and after they heard “Hiscox” called they shouted with joy because they thought they once again had an all male rank…he, he, he! I had a big shoe to fill as my brother had moved to the Bass rank and it was my name that they called for “Hug Doover’s” rank. The look on their faces was priceless. Nevertheless, you taught me well and I never let them down. In the end, they were happy to have me in the rank and I was happy you had prepared me so well.

    I also remember playing in the Sweet Georgia Brown quartet in Cleveland stadium and on Soldiers Field. That took a lot of hot air! We blew our guts out! How cool was it to be in Soldiers Field when they turned the lights out for our light routine, too. What an honor to be in the band during your tenure. Thank you, Mr. B for all your dedication to us. We all started out as ragtags and you brought us together as a team. During the 60’s you did what no one else could do. You made us look past race and see members of our team, the OHS BAND. I don’t ever remember a racial problem in the band. I think about those years now as we have a new ground-breaking election that has brought us a President that may face some of the same issues. I pray that he has been trained as we were, to work together to a common goal.
    I also pray that your years have given back to you ten-fold what you gave to us. You deserve it!
    Any OHS Grads wishing to contact me can do so at goldenhorsefarm@aol.com.
    Barb Hiscox King

    Comment by Barb Hiscox King — November 10, 2008 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  85. My dearest Mr. “B”,

    Wow! What happened to the years? I remember the smell of my brand new cornet in the red velvet lined case and being riveted to every move you made to teach me to play it and to read music. That was what, 5th grade I think? Anyhow, I will never forget those days and how my broken home life made me seek time in the band room as I grew up because you and Jim Lee made me feel like a part of the “family” that OHS Band always was to those of us who were members. What a honor as an 8th grader to be a part of the awesome band I had adored up until then only from afar…..training band, and then the summer evening workouts learning all the new routines. Nobody, nobody, knew what a real marching band was – or just how our hearts skipped a beat when the lights went out and we switched on our battery packs…that was only something that we experienced, because of YOU!

    Well, time has flown and the memories we have still make my heart beat a little faster when I stop and remember. YOU were key to it all.

    As you know, I was blessed to have about 12 years of joy beside “J” and we shared lots of stories — I know that he never forgot all that you did for him and how the “two Jims” had some special times together at Oberlin AND Massillon – “cool it with the booms….”. You and Steve are two guys that I know Jim thought of with much love and had the deepest respect for. And thanks for all the support you gave me during those last difficult months.

    May God continue to watch over you and bless you. You deserve the very best that life can offer. You have my most heartfelt wishes for a splendid birthday celebration and it is my prayer that you have many more!


    Comment by Debbie (Knisely) Lee — November 13, 2008 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  86. Dear Mr. B,

    I would first like to wish you a happy belated 85th birthday! I am sorry I was not aware of this blog until today. I have read every comment on this blog, and it is truly amazing to understand the impact you have had on so many people in your life! Like so many of the people who have written, you made a singular, lasting impact on me that is part of my life to this day, and I truly thank you for it. You managed to make each of your students feel like they were capable of doing anything they set their minds to, so long as they had the dedication, and put in the hard work and sacrifice. I believed it firmly, because you told me I could do it.

    I remember many times when you went over and above the call of duty to teach a lesson, sometimes, even to our parents. ( Remember how close I came to missing the England trip? ) I, like many others, looked to you for inspiration, and learned a world of fine lessons from your example of dedication and leadership. Even with the hundreds of other students you had, you managed to make each of us feel like we were important, talented, and capable of acheiving great things…not only in high school, but in life. I remember nearly every word you said from a certain practices, and a few meetings along the way.

    I have been very fortunate to enjoy a long career in the music business, and I routinely thank my lucky stars that I was taught by you. I quote you in interviews, and refer to your impact on me enough to make you almost sick…but you taught me one particular lesson that I swear I use to this day.

    You had us working our butts off to get ready for one of the many amazing opportunities we had in the Tiger Swing Band…you were trying to get us to understand that if we practiced the music and the routine over and over, and put in the work to hit each little step and note, that when we actually did the performance, we would not have to consciously think of those things. We would be able to perform, or swing our way through the show at the highest level, with more attitude. Your term at showtime was to “Lean on it”. You taught me volumes about tempo, adrenaline management, halftime clock management,( We had some fun with that one, didn’t we?) and like most of the people on this blog, countless life lessons that shaped who I am today…but the single Mr. B phrase I hear before EVERY concert, recording session, television show or speaking engagement are those three words. “Lean on it!” It is of the truest lessons of life…because if you don’t do the work, there is nothing to lean on. Obviously, that translates to much more than music or job success…

    It wasn’t just the words you said to us. It was how much YOU believed in the words that made you the best teacher any of us ever had.

    Mr. B, I humbly join this list of all the wonderful students that you impacted so genuinely in wishing you a Happy 85th, and many more to come! There is a special place for people like you…in the hearts of all whom you have taught during your amazing career, and those whom we might teach because we were your students.

    Many Thanks, Best Wishes and All My Respect,

    Dave McAfee
    W.H.S. Class of ’81

    Comment by Dave McAfee — November 18, 2008 @ 7:29 am | Reply

  87. WOW….. Mr B… I HAD NOT CHECKED THE WEBPAGE FOR A WHILE… 85 WOW where do I begin to tell you thanks…. & how great the impact on my life and my interest in music developed because of you and Jim.
    I learned to play that darn Alto Sax….. then the Bells… the marimba… then the bassoon…. band practice til I couldn’t stand up straight from marching in those ruts…. falling over in the dark learning to march ( swing march) while wearing lights… twirling those batons ( sometimes our fire batons) … being so proud to be a OHS marching band member while standing for our national anthym… and the fight song. Being a proud community member repesenting OHS at state meets and band contests…. crying laghing learning and smiling…. growing. Thanks is not enough of a word….. but Thanks for allowing me to learn to understand and experience music…. discipline and life.
    Happy Birthday. Rock down /slash back! Christy Bell – class of 72 (71 early grad).

    Comment by CHRISTY BELL — December 13, 2008 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

  88. Dear Mr. B,

    Happy Belated Birthday! Under your leadership, Marching band, Symphonic Band, Concert Band were some of the best days of my school years. Because of your dedication and devotion, I have been able to pass my love of music on to my daughter and grandchildren. I still find myself humming some of the music we used to play! I wish you the best.

    Kathy Kohut DeRuyter
    OHS Class of 73
    clarinet, oboe, trombone, majorette

    Comment by Kathy Kohut DeRuyter — December 15, 2008 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

  89. “Mr. B”
    I was in the 6th grade when you recruited me as a trumpet player and began lessons soon after. I was in the junior band, last chair as I recall, when you announced the need for six jr. members to train with the senior band for a trip to Chicago. My older sister (Diana, R.I.P.) was in the sr. band and coached me by yelling at me to swing that horn and point those ters. I was chosen and was one of the youngest to march on Soldiers Field.
    Afterwards I, and the other jrs., were kept with the sr. band, but I still was last chair. The lessons continued and you confronted one day and told me I could play the notes, but I’d never advance much because I had poor tone quality. Harumph! I’ll show you! And I did by driving my parents nuts with all the practicing I did in my bedroom. You remember the challenge system you devised? If I thought I was better than the next chair up, I’d challenge them and they’d get to select the music, take it home to study and bring it in to band period and set it in front of me and I had to play it, sight unseen, better than they could… Remember that? Do you also remember that by 10th grade I had 2nd chair? You offered me a challenge, I accepted it and worked until I almost acheived it. That doggone John Derricott could flat out play that horn!
    My Mother, 83 now, remembers watching our shows and says it sent shivers up her spine.
    I remember one parade we were in and some of the comments from other bands. One such comment was something like, “We may as well go home, Saegertown is here and they always win 1st place.”
    The memories are great and I could go on forever, but I’d better go practice some “Pivot Wally’s” and “Ma’s Old Fashion Root Beers.”
    Member of Saegertown’s Marching and Dancing Band from ’58 to ’64.
    David R. Lesher Sr.

    Comment by David R. Lesher Sr. — December 16, 2008 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  90. Jim,
    I didn’t know about this blog until I received your card today. First, and most importantly, ” A Belated Happy 85th Birthday”. Lee and I weren’t able to be in Massillon for the 75th MTSB Anniversary, but we were thrilled to see that you were able to take part in it.

    I have just read each of the comments that were sent to you. It must make you feel tremendous to know that not only did so many of your former band students take time to send the messages, but that you had such an impact on so many of their lives.

    When I think back to 1970, when it was announced you were going to be the new director of the TSB, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay and start over again with a new director and the changes that would surely be made. But after meeting you and listening to your plans, (not only did you tell me about your style, but you showed me each and every step that you were planning to use)I found that I was anxious to get started to help you put those plans into action. I won’t say that it was easy at first, but it was certainly worth the hard work to see the reaction from the crowd at our first performances. “Mr. B – You and your band were a hit!”

    There are so many memories: You brought me a freshman, named Heywood McGriff and told me that he wanted to be the drum major next year. I asked him if he knew how to twirl or if he owned a baton, he answered “no” to both questions. I gave him one of my batons and worked with him before and after band practices every day. He quickly learned to do high tosses and “bounce” the baton off the ground. He would eventually become one of the favorite drum majors of all time. You saw that he had what it takes.

    We had so many outstanding trips: pro football games, Thanksgiving Day parades in Detroit, Philadelphia, and of course, Macy’s in New York City, when your band was called “the greatest high school band in the nation”. I’m sure that the best trip of all was our trip to England for the Harrogate Music Festival – what a tremendous experience for all involved! You, Lee and I have talked so many times about it and what memories we have from it. It was just fantastic! Of course, the most fulfilling times were the many, many shows that we prepared for the Massillon fans at the Tiger football games. Most directors left the sidelines open for the majorettes to perform, but you moved your band all over the field, and used to yell across the field, “Shirlee, get the majorettes out of the way!” I learned quickly to watch you lay out the show and to move the majorettes to where the band wasn’t. But what a feeling it was to work in the heat and the cold to prepare a new show, and then to receive a standing ovation from all of the fans when you turned to face them at the conclusion of the performance.

    Jim, I am so happy that I decided to stay on as majorette instructor when you were hired. Those times were some of the best of my life. You have a tremendous talent but, more importantly, you have taught your students about so much more than music. And as you have seen from the comments that have been left, they will forever be grateful!

    Shirlee & Lee McCauley

    Comment by Shirlee McCauley — December 26, 2008 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

  91. Dear Mr. Billingsley,

    So good to hear about you. It doesn’t seem possible that you are 85. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem possible that I am 67.

    Both Jack and I have continued to play music throughout our lives. We played in some local big bands, and were fortunate enough to play in some “ghost” bands. We played with Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Les Elgart, and a few others. That work has disappeared for the most part. A few years ago, I started to do “society” work in New York City. It is rather interesting in that there is no music. You are expected to know the tune and your harmony. Somehow, I managed to do that for the most part. I have been able to play all around the country, and a couple of jobs in England. It continues to be exciting for me.

    Several years ago, I hopped onto the bandstand at the Waldorf Astoria and the trumpet player playing the third chair was seated next to me. Turns out he was one of the very top players in New York until felled by Bell’s Palsey. He asked me where I grew up, and I said a small town in northwestern PA. He asked what town, and I said a small town near Meadville. He asked specifically what town, and I told him Saegertown. He gave me this funny look and said “You had one heck of a high school marching band.” It turns out that he had been in the professional band (Benny Benach) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had seen us on that very muddy field. Small world, isn’t it. I was at the Waldorf last night playing for the International Debutante Ball.

    I have been fortunate to work with some very fine musicians. And I want to give credit to the foundation that you provided at Saegertown.

    I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy New Year.


    Jim Davis

    Comment by Jim Davis — December 31, 2008 @ 6:09 am | Reply

  92. Dear Mr. Billingsley,

    My, how the years have flown since I was “only 17.” Sounds like you have had a wonderful, productive life. You will never be forgotten by so many of us. Among other things, you taught us discipline — something I see lacking in so many of today’s youth.

    My husband and I are both retired and living in Meadville. We came back to our roots.



    Comment by Carla Bier Conrad — January 1, 2009 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  93. Mr. B.

    I just found out today, from Carla, that this blog exists, and having given a quick
    run-through of the comments posted I see my
    feelings verified over and over and over.

    You touched so many lives, and made every one of them better.

    It is marvelous to see you receive the accolades you deserve. All the other people
    in our lives heard all these wonderful things
    about you for years —– my own family must
    find you unbelievable. I’ve shown them,
    figuratively, the pedestal with “Mr. B” high
    above every other band director, and teacher, I’ve ever known.

    I’m not sure you would remember me —– I was
    just another kid in band —— but I was a
    “kid” turned on to music by YOU. You taught
    me my first notes in Music Appreciation class
    your first year at Saegertown ——– you
    taught me to play clarinet (something I still
    do from time to time), AND, you taught me how
    to work hard.

    With your teaching, I was able to make it to
    first chair first clarinet within just one year, and got to enjoy going to district band
    two years ——— you get all the credit for
    pushing, encouraging, and refusing to accept
    less than my best.

    And, you gave me such a love for music that I
    enjoy everything from rock to classical —
    In fact, next Monday I’ll be doing something,
    at age 68, that I’ve always wanted to do ….
    I will take my first piano lesson; my Christmas gift from my husband, now that I
    finally have the time to devote once again to
    learning more of what YOU laid the foundation for.

    I am eternally grateful to you, and Praise God that I had that wonderful opportunity to be
    one of your “kids” from Spring of 1954 to
    graduation in 1957……..


    Comment by Sandy Goff Greggs — January 1, 2009 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  94. Jim, This blog is quite a testament to a man who is quite special. I only wish I was able to meet you sooner. You are a good freind to me, I know! Don.

    Comment by Don Fitzgerald — January 7, 2009 @ 10:34 am | Reply

  95. Hello Mr.B…I want to thank-you for leading our orchestra and letting the violinists challenge for 1st chair…I liked the competition…it inspired me to practice the violin more at home. The art of music has been a great influence on my life.

    Cheryl Behner Patterson

    Comment by Cheryl Behner Patterson — January 13, 2009 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

  96. Happy Belated Birthday, Mr. B!

    Comment by Sheryl Livingston Krauser — January 13, 2009 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  97. Happy Birthday Mr. B!

    I played trombone in the band. My father was the local barber George Goodson. Glad to be able to wish you happy birthday!

    Comment by Jorgelle Goodson Lawson — January 13, 2009 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  98. All I can say is WOW! !
    This is just so great, often wondered whatever happened to our ‘beloved’ Band Director. Glad to see that you are still ‘romping and stomping’…. your principles that you taught us .. I have used my entire life. This website tells so much more about your God Blessed life than I ever knew.
    I ran off to college in Chattanooga, TN …only later to be drafted into the Army for the Vietnam War. Carried a radio for the Infantry, got ‘banged up’ …ended up in the 1st Infantry Division Band. Got transferred to Redstone Arsenal Post Band and got outta the Army. Went to Alabama A & M University to finish a degree. While there they were trying to start a ROTC Program – I got involved – started a ROTC band …( with skills you taught me) got a Army Commission and became a Army Logistics Officer for 25 years, retired.
    So amazing the traits we have learned thatbecome foundational in our lives – where they came from… Thanks Mr. Billingsley for drilling into me, so many thanks – there on that dusty Marching Band Field at Oberlin High Scholl ..so many years ago !

    David Wilson
    Huntsville, AL

    Comment by David Wilson — January 13, 2009 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

  99. Happy birthday Mr. B

    I have often wondered if you knew just how much you touched our lives.We had hard work to do but the end result was pride in what we accomplished in both the concert band and marching band.I’ll always remember the fans who would be at the practice field to watch the show because they knew new routines started on Mondays.

    Thanks for Sweet Georgia Brown!!!! I still know the steps!!! I’ve been out of school since 1970

    Comment by Saundra Scott Alston — January 13, 2009 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  100. Mr. B,

    Happy Belated Birthday to you. I still remember your wonderful enthusiasm and the encouragement that you would offer. You had more energy than most men half your age. I was always impressed by your level of energy and how that would impact those around you. As I have made my career in music I look back and thank you for the inspiration that you have provided. Best wishes to you and your family in the New Year.


    Paula Hickey
    clarinet 1981

    Comment by Paula Hickey — January 14, 2009 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  101. Mr. B.

    Guess I am a little late in wishing a great guy Happy Birthday. Would you believe my youngest daughter has a birthday on November 6.
    What more can be said except what I just read, you were a great influence on my life. I was not very musical but remember that someone gave up their Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation to teach me to play the Alto Clarinet, the success being first chair at District Band and a trip to State Band. WOW!!

    Remeber the door to our house is always open to you and Kathy, please stop when in the area.

    Again a belated Happy Birthday to a wonderful friend and teacher.

    Betty Lou Schrubb Williams – SHS Class of 1956

    Comment by Betty Lou Williams — January 16, 2009 @ 3:46 am | Reply

  102. Hi Mr. “B”,

    Just found out yesterday ( 01-15-09) about this web site for your 85th birthday….before I ramble on …Happy “belated” Birthday and may you have many, many more !!
    I’m sure you remember me (who could forget those trombone players in the Saegertown Band 1954 thru 1958?)
    Ed and I have been married 51 years, Ed has retired from UPS in 1994 after 31 yrs ( I have always been a housewife). We have a daughter, Sandy, who is 41 yrs old , is a RN ( Meadville hospital) and she played flute and sax in the SHS band and now her oldest son, Matt, is taking lessons on the sax (he is 11 yrs old). Our son, Bob, 37yrs old , also was a military man with 15 yrs. in the AirForce , now is a MRI supervisor in Meadville (hospital) while at SHS Bob played the drums. With our kids being in music all has taken place because I truly enjoyed being in your band. When they become of age to start learning to play I never shut up about what fun we had as band kids and I now hear our kids telling their kids ( our sons two boys are not quite convinced…. as of yet. But, Grammy is encouraging them -HA . I was a poor country kid who never traveled beyond Meadville and so many times I have thought of you and Pastor Claney seeing to it that I had money for lunch a good many times. These are the memories I have of you that will always be with me.
    And… I still laugh at the times you would get so mad at us (in the old school house that was our band room) you would break your baton over the music stand. It is funny now but then…oh god, if it was something we trombone players had done !!!
    I see Betty Lou Williams, Jan Ryan Metzler, quite often and they have kept me up to date on you. I live 3 miles straight north on Rt 19 from Betty Lou so if you are in this area would love to see you . Take care. You sure look good in your pics especially after knowing what health problems life has given you .

    Joyce “Burge” Shaffer
    ’58 SHS grad.

    Comment by Joyce Burge Shaffer — January 16, 2009 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  103. Dear Mr B,
    Happy belated birthday. I happenned to see Rita Thomas the other day and she mentioned that there was a tribute site for you. I’ve lived within miles of you for most of my carrer- Cleveland, Chardon, North Olmsted, and Stow Ohio. I have been looking to get in touch with you for most of that time and to thank you for all that you have brought to my life through your teaching. Good ol Saegertown High marching and concert bands. My success has been as a direct result of those experiences and disipline. I am now retired and moved back to Pennsylvania ( Blooming Valley) I still fondly watch band competitions and parades to compare them to “ours”.I can say that we had the best and none compare to our band even today- thanks to you.
    There is so much more that I could say but better leave some space and time for others.
    If you would like to write see adddress and e-mail below.

    God Bless You

    Frank Chismar Class of ’57
    25517 Guy St.
    Guys Mills, PA 16327

    Comment by chismar — April 11, 2009 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  104. What fun to read all these comments. Hope you are still having fun, Mr. B. You were obviously a great influence on us all.

    I would like to read the show band book – is it in print? I didn’t find anything in a search on Amazon. Please let me know if it’s available.

    My kids were both in “one show per season corps bands” in high school (Cambridge and Lebanon, OH). BORRRRING! I sure miss the exciting shows we did in Massillon.

    Keep rockin’, Mr. B.

    Diane (Demmer) Gibson, class of ’74 WHS

    Comment by Diane Gibson — June 23, 2009 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

  105. Mr. B, My apologies for missing the Main Event (your 85th).

    I must echo what so many others have already said – I have carried the lessons you taught into all aspects of my life – lessons about discipline, hard work and teamwork.

    While I have not become a professional musician, director or music teacher, I have never stopped playing – for the love of it! I still play on a regular basis, in a local community band. A few weeks ago, we played a concert at the historic Fanueil Hall in Boston. Not quite the thrill of performing to a crowd of 20,000 at Paul Brown stadium, or to a Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade, but exciting in its own way.

    In my professional life, I have built a number of successful teams who have delivered some inventive and intricate software products. These teams don’t even know you, but they owe a great deal of their success to the core values you instilled in me!

    My children are nearly grown and their upbringing has been laced with these same lessons about focus and discipline – lessons they will undoubtedly carry with them into their adult lives.

    Mr B., you have touched many lives. My life would not have been the same without you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you are and all that you shared.

    Joyce Radcliffe Spencer
    WHS ‘75
    Still playing clarinet in the Chelmsford Community Band (in Massachusetts)

    Comment by Joyce Radcliffe Spencer — June 30, 2009 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

  106. Thanks for all that you have done, Teaching me to play tuba and swing that big horn and have fun doing it I remember the joy and pains of my years at WHS from the “rookie” band to being the 2nd black mascot and the suit I wore. you will always be the king of the Swing Band and the “MTSB” will always be the Kings of Swing, Swing On.
    David Crews class of 1981.

    Comment by D.Crews — November 16, 2009 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

  107. At half-time of my son’s football games the band comes out and just stands there while a dance team dances. The suburban bands just stand there, the county bands just stand there, and the city bands just stand there. That’s no fun! I don’t know how far ahead of your time you were, Mr. B, but it’s at least 40 years and counting.

    But that’s not what I remember most about the band. That would be Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E-flat. I was lucky enough to play it with a trumpet in one year and a baritone in another. Years later I found a version on the web that is exactly (save one squeaked woodwind note) what we recorded on that old thing called a “record.” Even the dynamics are identical. To think that a high school band could have performed at that level is astounding. Only with decades of hindsight have we been able to appreciate what you enabled us to achieve. Thank you.
    Ray DeGennaro

    Comment by Ray DeGennaro — December 24, 2009 @ 3:35 am | Reply

  108. HiMr.B!,
    Just wanted to add how good it was to see you at our band reunion at good ol’Saegertown High School on June 26,2010. I don’t know who enjoyed seeing you the most my kids, grandkids(because of all my bragging about you & our band),my husband,Ed ,myself or the app. 200 people who showed up.Thank you so much for coming! You will never be forgotten !
    Also, thank you for being so nice to my grandson,Matt,who is a 3 generation of the SHS Band ! He was very proud to have particapted in the activities.

    Joyce Burge Shaffer Class of 1958

    Comment by Joyce Burge Shaffer — June 30, 2010 @ 9:58 pm | Reply

  109. Hi Mr. B,
    So sorry I wasn’t able to attend the Saegertown Band Reunion this year but I am in Oregon for the summer. My husband and I are retired and travel full time in an RV and are seeing our wonderful country! I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful years in band. So much hard work, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. You gave me a great love for music and taught me that hard work will get results! I remember practicing after school for 2 hours then going home and playing my sax for another hour or two every night. Those years in band were some of the very best of my life and I thank you for them. I have told my husband many tmes of the “ruts” in our practice field and that you couldn’t get out of line even if you tried! Jan Larson sent me the book and CD and I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting. It brought back so many wonderful memories. I even showed my husband the picture of the ruts in the field. He bought me a sax several years ago for Christmas and, after almost 40 years, I could still play the Star Spangled Banner! I think he was impressed!! You have touched so many lives and I hope you know how much we all appreciated you…again thank you.
    Barbara George Connor SHS class of 1963

    Comment by Barbara George Connor — July 18, 2010 @ 4:25 am | Reply

  110. Hi Mr. B
    Happy belated Birthday. sorry but i just found this.Just in case you don’t know by now…you were the BEST. Those 3 years in the Tiger Swing Band,were some of the best in my life. Summer practices up on the hill,challenging,hot,hard work, but it was fun. You with your new little squawk box you carried around to yell,,uh i mean teach us with. Tulip Festival parade, Macrys Thanksgiving in New York (where we froze, but were called the best band in the nation by David Hartman ) on T V , and those freaking Hall of Fame parades ,where we roasted. Anyway thank you for your knowledge,constantly working out new routines for us,,,( nope..nope..nope..do it again ) lol patience, and most of all the work ethic you instilled in us. you will NEVER be forgotten. you the man!!!
    Pete Todich,head drummer . ) class of “75

    Comment by Peter Todich — August 27, 2011 @ 6:10 am | Reply

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