I had the chance to do just that recently, however - and I didn't have to go to Cooperstown, Canton or Cleveland to accomplish the feat. Nope, I got to meet and have a pleasant conversation with a Hall-of-Famer right here in Cherokee.
Bob Conley of Cherokee was recently named to the "Bugles Across America" Hall of Fame. Bugles Across America's Hall of Fame is not an actual building, but Bob did receive a certificate and medal from the organization, which was founded in 2000 by Tom Day of Berwyn, Illinois. Bugles Across America has over 5,000 bugler volunteers, located in all 50 states and a growing number overseas. Their purpose is to see that all veterans have a bugler available to play 'Taps' at their funeral.
Though a Bugles Across America Hall-of-Famer, Bob has never played 'Taps' at a funeral on the bugle. He plays the 24 notes of 'Taps' in the same key as buglers, but prefers the sound he gets on his trumpet. He does, however, own three bugles, each one a different style.
Bob usually plays the "echo" part of Taps himself - playing the first chorus facing in one direction, then turning his back and playing the second chorus at a lower volume. He said it may sound better with two trumpeters playing, but that it is getting harder and harder to line up a second person to play.
Bob married Sharon Fuhrman in 1951, and Jim is one of the couple's four sons - the others being Rob, who now lives in Portand, Oregon, and Steve and Daniel, who both live in Cherokee. The four sons fathered eight sons among them, and it wasn't until his oldest grandson and his wife had a daughter that Bob finally had another female in the family.
Bob served three years in the U.S. Navy, where he was attached to the Marines and served two years overseas. After his discharge, Bob spent a year on the Capital Police Force in Washington, D.C., and then returned to Cherokee, where he worked in the Cherokee County Engineer's Office for eight years. In 1957, he started worked at Lundell Construction in Cherokee, and he is still there, working a 55-hour week as Vice President.
Bob says, "I do not get paid to play 'Taps,' and I do not want to get paid. I do it out of respect for the Veteran, who fought hard for his country. I hope that when the time comes, there will be someone around to play for me, and take my place to continue to play 'Taps.'"
Conley thought his 66 years of playing 'Taps' was probably close to a record - until he saw an article about Leonard Ross of Prescott, Arizona, the oldest American Legion bugler, who is 101 years old. Said Bob, "I've still got a ways to go yet."