A Call To Remember

Learn how a Regions associate is sharing her musical talent to honor those who have selflessly served.
Jun 5, 2024 1:00 PM ET

By Kim Borges

Marianne Masters had just three days to rehearse her delivery of 24 notes.

Twenty-four very important, deeply respectful, somber notes.

“I hadn’t played in 25 years,” Masters said of the last time she’d picked up the trumpet. “I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?’”

In a few days, she would be playing “Taps” for the American Legion Post 1115 Honor and Color Guard during a military funeral in Spring Bay, Illinois.

It’s a patriotic mission deeply rooted in her family’s DNA.

“Both of my grandfathers served in the military,” explained Masters. “My mom’s dad was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart from the Navy after being missing in action in the Korean War. My dad’s dad also served, and his four brothers were all in the military, as well.”

The trumpet Masters plays belonged to her paternal grandfather.

“He passed it down to me,” she said. “Maybe that’s where I inherited my musical talent.”

When Masters isn’t playing, the manager of Regions Bank’s East Peoria branch is helping customers build financial confidence – including Spring Bay Post 1115, which has banked with Regions for 55 years.

Masters’ personal path to the American Legion Auxiliary began five years ago thanks to an evening out.

“When I moved back to the area, a friend of mine was bartending at the Legion,” said Masters. “She said, ‘You should come down; there are so many people you’d know here.’”

While reconnecting with old friends, Masters made a new connection: Dennis Tipsword, a state commander with the American Legion. It might be overstating things to put Tipsword in the friend category immediately.

“Dennis wasn’t sure about me in the beginning,” said Masters. “But then I think he realized, ‘That girl’s not so bad,’ and I’ve been his best friend since. He has a heart of gold.”

Tipsword discovered Masters has one, too. In addition to playing “Taps,” she’s also been baking pies for the past five years – all-American apple is her standby. Plus, she’s helped with set-up and tear-down for the Legion’s family funeral services and cooking for the annual Veterans Day dinner. It’s all part of her involvement with the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary.

“Marianne is always ready to volunteer for many different assignments,” said Tipsword. “She always says, ‘Let me know if I can help anywhere.’ She always does her part.”

Doing her part also includes inviting her fellow branch associates to join her in making the holidays a bit brighter for veterans.

“The Auxiliary women prepared holiday stockings filled with crossword puzzles, socks and gift cards, and we took them to the Veteran’s Administration clinic,” said Masters. “Many don’t have family and won’t receive gifts. They just melted when we presented those stockings.”

In 2022, Masters found another way to help as the American Legion revived its Spring Bay Watermelon Festival. The carnival-style event features a craft show, car show and, of course, watermelon as part of its food tents. Masters is serving as the festival’s 2024 entertainment chair. Regions Bank in Central Illinois has sponsored the event the past three years.

Masters will be multi-tasking during this year’s event by playing in the festival’s live music line-up – but it won’t be the trumpet.

“I play piano in a country band, and we’ll be opening for the headliner,” she said.

That might sound like a lot of pressure, but Masters is far more relaxed these days thanks to her “Taps” experience.

“I was scared out of my wits,” she recalled of her first trumpeting performance. “I had no idea what to expect. It was cold and rainy. There were 100 flags lined up down this road. I couldn’t believe how many people were there. It gave me goosebumps.”

You could say Masters has experienced all the feels while playing.

“We had a day that was probably 100 degrees,” she said of another ceremony. “I knew when my cue was, I stood at attention and held the trumpet in the sun for 30 minutes before playing. When I placed it to my mouth, it burnt my lips. That burn lasted a week.”

What’s lasted longer is what she’s gained from playing.

“It’s been a learning experience for me,” Masters said. “I was very timid that night back at the Legion five years ago. This has encouraged me to put myself out there and push through it despite being nervous.”

The gift she’s received for doing so? Well, it’s priceless.

“Watching everyone with their hand over their heart standing in silence it is an indescribable feeling,” said Masters. “So many family members thank me. ‘Taps’ is played to honor our servicemembers who have given their all to protect us and our country. I’m so honored to play my small part at these events. I think my grandfathers would be quite touched and proud I do this.”

Send a Memorial Day ecard in remembrance of those who have served.

A Regions Community Partner in Indy Honors the Fallen

For 60-plus years, the 500 Festival in Indianapolis has held its American Legion Memorial Service the Friday before Memorial Day. The ceremony is one of 50-plus events the nonprofit conducts each May leading up to the Indianapolis 500.

“It’s so important that we take a moment this weekend to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by those who served their country to ensure the freedom we enjoy today,” said Bob Bryant, president and CEO of the 500 Festival. “We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Regions Bank for their community partnership, recognizing their pivotal role in magnifying the significance of honoring our fallen heroes and their families.”

Regions Bank in Indy has worked with the 500 Festival for more than 30 years. In 2023, the bank made its debut in the 500 Festival’s annual downtown Parade. The event draws 200,000 spectators, making it the nation’s third-largest parade. The Regions Big Bike will make its return to Indy for this year’s Parade May 25.