Every night at dusk the sound of a bugle resonates throughout the Courtyards at Pepper Creek in Valparaiso. The sounds that can be heard are the ardent and dutiful notes of “Taps”. This song, as we all know, is often played at funerals, flag ceremonies and at military functions. It is a national symbol that is recognized wherever and whenever it’s played.
The playing of “Taps” has been a nightly ritual since January 2, 2013 in Pepper Creek. But where is it coming from? And who is playing it? The answer to both of these questions is: Bill Wellman is playing it from his home. He got the idea from an online video of a man who plays “Taps” every night from his front porch.
“He hasn’t missed a day in two years,” Wellman said. “I immediately thought, ‘That’s neat. That really is. To me it was a great thing that he is doing. I noticed some of the comments after the video of people saying, ‘I wish he was in my neighborhood.’ And that’s what made me start thinking.”
We at ValpoLife were told about Wellman and his nightly ritual by Andrea Evans, owner of Catch 22 Bar and Grill in Merrillville, IN. She and her family live in Pepper Creek and are albe to hear "Taps" every night from their home. They thought it was too good to keep to themselves so they shared his story with us!
"My kids look forward to it and stand at attention and in silence while it's playing," Evans said. "We think it's wonderful, and feel lucky to have Mr. Wellman as our neighbor."
Wellman works for Whiteco Industries, Inc. which is located in Merrillville, IN. It is a big name around Northwest Indiana as it contains various subsidiaries that you may recognize such as: Star Plaza Theater, LighthouseRestaurant, Profile Systems, LLC, etc. And the name “Wellman” may ring a bell as well due to his extensive work with each of these companies and others in Whiteco Industries and the notoriety gained from a popular book that came out a few years ago called “It’s Made to Sell - Not to Drink!”
Yes, this Bill Wellman who is playing “Taps” from his home is the same Bill Wellman, author and business mogul. You see, Wellman is a former Marine. He joined the Corps at the age of 17 and served in WWII. He has been a proud gyrene ever since. Oorah! So you can understand his loyalty to his country.
After watching the video online, Wellman went to an engineer at Profile Systems, LLC and pitched the idea of making that same act of patriotism happen here in NWI. The result was a wireless unit that was installed in his basement along with speakers underneath his deck. What makes this piece of technology special is that it is able to differentiate between dawn and dusk and it takes the lengthening and shortening of days throughout the year into account. This means that “Taps” will be played at dusk everyday no matter what time of year.
“It comes on at the right time everyday,” Wellman said.
Wellman’s actions have gotten him national as well as local attention. The response was so positive that he is expanding the listening base to downtown Valparaiso. This Saturday, April 20, 2013 will be the unveiling. At dusk along Lincolnway from Napoleon Street to Franklin Street, “Taps” will be played on the speakers that are already placed in the light fixtures that stand on either side of the street as well as through a few newly installed units that are like the one in Wellman’s home.
“By this weekend we should be playing ‘Taps’ downtown through about 50 speakers,” Wellman said. “There has been enough interest that the American Legion by Von Tobel’s has purchased one of our units and we’re going to install it in their building. The Porter County Museum is going to have one installed, and the VFW wants one as well.”
And it doesn’t stop in Valpo. Over in Lake County the Legacy Foundation is going to buy some of the speakers systems from Profile Systems, LLC and have them installed at some of the veteran’s parks so that “Taps” will play there every evening at dusk.
“The reason that I’m so interested in this is that 68 years ago when I was in the First Marine Division we went into Okinawa. I was there from April until June and I came home on a hospital ship. I was one of six walking patients,” Wellman said. “Back then the only way that they handled deaths was by burial at sea. So that’s what I did for the first three days. I was part of the honor guard that initiated the burial at sea, and every time someone was ‘buried’ they’d immediately play ‘Taps’.”
Make sure to be in downtown Valpo this Saturday at dusk to hear "Taps" play for the first time along Lincolnway (weather permitting). Let's make this idea more than local, and give a nod to Bill Wellman -the Marine who took the initiative. Semper Fi.