WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — Many people paid tribute to the fallen today from ceremonies to the playing of taps, which was even more special for a family in Watertown as they carry on a musical legacy.
Kaitlin Niles played taps this afternoon at 3 p.m. in Watertown as part of “Taps Across America.” Her dad Duane played his trumpet outside their home last year for the same reason, but he passed away two weeks ago. Kaitlin decided to use her talents to keep the music going.
“I just think it’s very important that I keep his legacy going and I keep the music going because that’s what he would want,” Kaitlin said.
Kaitlin is a graduate of O’Gorman High School and her dad was her band director. Duane learned to play trumpet when he was eight years old and had been a music educator for 43 years.
“Duane always enjoyed and felt it was his duty to give back because he, himself, never served in the military, so he began playing taps for Memorial Day services, funerals, Veterans Day services,” Kaitlin’s mom Kathy said.
Duane passed away two weeks ago with complications from a heart infection.
“We’ve got to keep the music going and keep supporting things that my husband favored and what he really enjoyed doing, so today after our Memorial Day Service in Watertown, we came back and we were looking at pictures of my husband playing taps last year,” Kathy said.
That is when Kaitlin decided she would do the same, but on her flute.
“I’ve been playing the flute since fifth grade and I’m 27 now, so for a long time, and I just thought it would be a great idea since my dad recently passed, that I play my flute and I play a version of taps on there just has he did a year ago on his trumpet,” she said.
Kaitlin is a graduate of South Dakota State University. In 2017, she performed in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C. and Duane was there to see it.
“There’s a wonderful picture of proud dad beaming at his daughter and the other students playing in honor of our veterans. God bless them,” Kathy said.
Duane retired from Watertown Public School last school year.
“He wanted to give back and he was a very giving person, a very patient and kind teacher, and we’ll surely miss him, but his legacy lives on through music. We will keep the music going,” Kathy said.
Kaitlin will start a new job working with special education students at the Tea School District this fall. She will also continue working in the summers as a color guard instructor with a drum corps in Minneapolis.