David St. Angel, who many described as a big man with an even bigger heart, spent many years as a member of Phantom Regiment’s visual staff and management team. But it was his love for those who were part of Phantom Regiment that so many people remember most.
“I remember when I came back in 1992 to march, every time I’d walk into Roosevelt he was there to greet us one and all,” said Tracy (Supan) Fritzsching, who marched in the color guard in 1990 and 1992-95. “He had a stern voice but always a welcoming big hug. You could tell he loved the drum corps, and he loved the people that made up the drum corps. He took the time to invest in all of us whether it was just a moment to notice our arrival by saying hi or by lending an ear and helping you achieve your dream of marching in the Phantom Regiment.”
David died Tuesday, Sept. 25 at his home in Rockford. He was 67.
Memorial gathering will be held from 4:00 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 28, 2012 at Fitzgerald Funeral Home & Crematory, 1860 S. Mulford Rd. Rockford, IL 61108. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a memorial fund through Phantom Regiment.
A memorial fund has been created to ensure the memory of David St. Angel. More information about the memorial fund.
His drum corps career began with the Purple Knights in Rockford before he marched in Phantom Regiment. He was a visual instructor and drill designer for the corps in the early 1970s.
In 1975, he reached one of the high points of his drum corps career, earning a Drum Corps International World Championship as the drill designer for the Madison Scouts. He went on to work for the Guardsmen in Schaumburg, Ill., helping them achieve competitive success.
He returned to Phantom Regiment as a visual instructor in 1988 and became corps director in 1989.
“His ability to bring people together, to organize virtually anything and, oh, that famous vice grip handshake, were unparalleled.” said Kerry Knodle, who spent much of the 1980s and ’90s as one of David’s tour manager triumvirate (along with Ron Schulz, Bill Riebock and John Baumgartner).
Those skills helped him lead the corps to some of its greatest competitive and entertainment successes. He was director from 1989 through 1993 and then returned midseason in 1995 and remained through 1996. During that time, the corps won a world championship, finished runner-up once and placed third, fourth, fifth and eighth one time each.
A few years ago, David was chatting with Lori Valenzuela, the wife of Phantom Regiment executive director Rick Valenzuela, and told her a good drum corps show starts with three things: “1) Good music. 2) Good music. 3) Good music.” His years as a director exemplified that belief.
“Dave was a great leader and friend. The Phantom Regiment was very fortunate to have benefited from his time here as an instructor, designer and director,” said Dan Farrell, who has been involved with the Phantom Regiment since 1971 and was the program coordinator for several of the years David was director. ” I personally learned so much from him and will always appreciate his unique style of leadership.”
While he retired from the corps in 1996, he was never far away. He was a mentor and friend to both Pat Seidling, who was director from 2002 to 2006, and Rick Valenzuela since.
Hall of Fame brass arranger Jim Wren may have summoned it up best when asked about David: “Whether it was plumbing at a nuclear plant, carving a duck, writing a drill or directing a drum corps, Dave excelled. Pretty good for a kid from the projects.”
David is survived by his wife of 48 years, Nancy, son Kevin and daughter Yvonne. He was preceded in death by daughter Stephanie and son David.
Many past staff members and alumni have e-mailed and posted their thoughts on Facebook of the man who was larger than life to them. If you have any photos of David you would like to share for our David St. Angel photo album, send them along with a caption to [email protected]
Here is what they had to say:
Dave, you helped shape the lives of so many. You will be missed by everyone who knew you. Even that cop in Ohio who gave you the speeding ticket. The legacy you created with the Phantom Regiment will live on always. SUTA!
Dave St. Angel was truly one of the giants of the Phantom Regiment organization. During his roughly 50 years of involvement with the Corps, he had been a brass player, an instructor, a drill designer, the director (twice), a DCI board member, mentor, fan and friend. Speaking about him in the past tense seems unthinkable. The reality of Dave’s passing has yet to sink in. He leaves us with so many great memories. During his years as Regiment Director, which started in 1989, he worked hard to guide the organization into being run more like a business. His concept of using a small group of tour directors during the summer touring season was used for many years after Dave moved away from being the corps’ director. Dave was 100% committed with anything he loved doing. His desire for the corps to always do their best won him the respect of the members and the staff.
What else can be said about Dave! He was a big man with a giant heart that touched the lives of so many. For me personally he was an influence on my life and career. He gave me the opportunity to join the management team in the late 1980s as a tour director. It was a new challenge for me. But with his mentoring and support, who knew that one day I would also be honored to be the corps director of Phantom Regiment. Thanks, Dave, for the friendship, life lessons and, especially, the laughter. It was a lot of fun!
Dave was one of the iconic figures that meant “The Phantom Regiment” when I began marching. Everyone remembers the infamous 1992 Finals night salute. I remember a rehearsal day in Wisconsin that same year he ran by himself when the staff bus broke down leaving them stranded. It was one of our best rehearsals of the season. His witty comments made us better and allowed us to laugh and enjoy rehearsal. Even now I try to use his method of teaching in my rehearsals. His passing is a great loss to his family and those that knew him. I am honored to have marched in his corps and had the opportunity to learn from him. My condolences go out to the St. Angel family; he will be missed by those whose lives he touched.
He was a man that always seemed to drive a steady wheel for the organization. He was a father of Kevin who was in the corps, but he was different. He had the passion for the corps itself beyond being a parent. He loved the PR deeply. He showed it in his emotions and wasn’t afraid to do so. That is what I loved about him. He had a huge heart and love for the drum corps and its people. He was there for many good days and bad days for the PR, both on an administrative level and as a competitor. I still to this day love listening to the recordings of Amazing Grace from that year. I can’t listen to it without thinking of DSA, his family or my own dad. My father also loved that song and listened to it often in his nursing home room. It was special to DSA and the drum corps that summer. My father even asked to be buried in that PR T-shirt from 92. I played it at his funeral and flashbacks came to me from that summer and the passion of DSA. What a great man! My thoughts and prayers are with the family and the organization. A loss of a great guy!
Dave will be missed by me and all others who were involved with Phantom Regiment during his years as visual instructor, designer, corps director and mentor. I recall that he approached me at a party in 1989, while I was a junior board member. He asked that I accompany him to the “cone of silence” which, in this case, was an empty guest room at my brother Dan’s house. He began by badgering me about not being involved enough, sitting on the sidelines and not pulling my freight. By the time he was finished, he had gotten me to commit to taking a leadership role on the Board’s development committee. Dave was an inspirational man with an unusual ability to get people to follow him in whatever he did. I met with Dave a few times earlier this year on a number of topics. It was like any time in the past 40 years that I had known him. He still had amazing insight into the organization and activity even 16 years after he “retired”. He is gone too soon.
No matter how or when you interacted with the “DSofA,” you could not help but be struck by his intense love of the activity as well as the presence that this great man had both on and off the field. His ability to bring people together, to organize virtually anything and, oh, that famous vice grip handshake, were unparalleled. From the many meetings at the DSA HQ on John Street to the great times on the road, he was someone I revered and respected at the highest levels. And, BTW, I owe my very short-lived career as the actual Director of Phantom Regiment (I have business cards to prove it) to the Great One. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten by the minions he tended to. RIP, DSA.
I liked Dave a lot. In the early ’90s, Pioneer had a bus breakdown in Rockford and we (I was Pioneer’s drum guy then) got stranded there for 3 days. I became the de facto chief babysitter of the Pioneer kids while Roman was off getting the buses back in shape. Dave made sure we had good housing and checked in on me every couple hours. We struck a friendship then. Later, while I was director of Regiment, he would invite me out for breakfast once a year, listen to my successes and frustrations, offer good advice and, if nothing else, was a sounding board. He was held in great respect there by all. I guess it was because his great humor was balanced by a firm take-no-BS-stance. Nice guy, smart man, good heart and, in my book, sits alongside Bob Lendman as the best leader that corps has ever had. Thanks for everything, Dave. Rest in peace.
I first met him at one of his infamous Super Bowl parties at his house back in 2006. From that day, I learned he was a no-nonsense type of guy. He was a big guy, full of life. He would have people hanging on every word he said, whether it was during the game or at a dinner party. Dave loved Phantom Regiment & the drum corps activity but you could tell he loved the people involved the most.
Dave St. Angel and I marched together, taught together and he was my Director when I was his program coordinator. His love for this activity and the Regiment was apparent every day of his life. His home was always open to the members and staff, and he loved a good discussion and a great time. We spent many hours in his home in Rockford discussing the future of the corps and the activity. He spent many years helping the Phantom Regiment become an important force in the drum and bugle corps activity. His larger-than-life personality was beloved by many who will miss him dearly. I will miss Dave. My thoughts are with his wife, Nancy, and his family, who always stood by him in his many activities in his life and years with the corps. My condolences to his family and the many people who loved him.
I met him in 2006 at Process Graphics (now PG Display) in Rockford. Actually I think it was the day they unveiled the new name. Anyhow, there was a party of sorts and Dave was there. He was telling me and either JD Shaw or Dan Farrell that he always wanted the corps to play Malaguena! They calmly said, “Well, Dave, you know another group already has that one taken care of.”
Dave St. Angel was in my mind the best director anyone could hope to work for. In 1989, my second year as a Phantom Regiment brass instructor, I came to know Dave very well and respected his subtle yet effective method of mixing his desires of how things should be done with great humor. I won’t ever forget Dave’s great spirit and unique blend of wit. There were times I did not know if Dave was kidding with me or serious. Of course I soon learned and respected his delivery and method. Dave would actually respect you even more when you got his technique and then he felt more comfortable to freely express himself knowing that it would not offend. Call it trust or whatever, Dave made me and others know that he really appreciated us and he fully understood the inherent problems with teaching corps through his extensive experience. I knew that he was a great instructor and he advised me many times when I was frustrated with getting our kids to perform whatever challenge was before us. He made me feel that I was of value asking me to come back and teach even after years when we did not do as well in brass scores. I was especially honored when he asked me at 1993 DCI finals to sit by him and Nancy for Phantom’s performance. He told me that he wanted to see my reaction to know how well the corps was doing. This means so much more now to me than it did then. After the 1991 season I received a card with a picture attached of that year’s thematic symbols from Pagliacci, etc . Dave inscribed a personal note to me and perhaps others. It read “Robert: Some day you will know.” The usual cryptic yet brilliant Dave meant that someday I would know why I made all of the sacrifices to teach Phantom and share what I knew with the kids. That experience was worth more than I can say or express now and all made possible because of Dave’s trust in me and was a much greater experience under Dave St. Angel’s leadership. I am very sorry that two summers ago when I was in Rockford that I did not have a chance to see Dave and express my gratitude and say hello one last time. It is my personal belief Dave now knows my thoughts and feelings and my regret for not seeing him while in Rockford recently. Thank God I knew and worked with Dave St. Angel. Whenever I teach a kid now a little bit of Dave is there to teach them with kindness, humor and drive. Thank you, Dave St. Angel.
I do remember how much I loved Regiment years before I marched it. Whenever they were at a show that my previous corps was also at, I hung around the Regiment, absorbing as much as I could. I started talking to this woman who was watching the show, and the next time I met her, I met a rather large man with her. I started telling them about my dream to one day march with Regiment.
Well, the day came, my father drove me down to tryout camp. The first people we met were the two people I had talked to in the summer – turns out they were Dave and Nancy – and Dave had just become the Director!
They immediately offered me their place to stay, and it felt comfortable right away. I remember loving Dave’s sense of humour right away.
The next camp was drill camp. I just remember showing up there marching. We stopped and Dave walked up to me and told me he was glad I made it. He was worried when I wasn’t on the bus from Rockford that I changed my mind.
I was then billeted at their house for the three years I marched Regiment. My room was a room that had to be entered in by Stephanie’s room. We would stay up many nights giggling and talking. We became very good friends. I still remember the comforting smell of that room.
I remember going down to Dave’s office in the basement with him, and him looking for something to show me, while pointing casually to the Jackalope hanging on the wall…like it was real (rabbit head with antlers). For a few minutes I think it actually existed just by his sincere delivery.
On a sadder note, I remember Dave’s tone and every word when he called my house to tell me about Stephanie’s aneurism. He was very concerned about how I would take it. He insisted on making sure my mother knew first before he told me.
When I made it down to the Show of Shows a few years ago, one of the happiest moments of that trip was seeing Dave and Nancy. Even better was when Dave asked Don and I to come by the house the next day. We ended up spending the entire afternoon and evening there. It was so great to hang out like old times updating the past years, laughing and watching drum corps. But the really funny thing is, I dig war stories. I do not dig Romances. Well, turns out Dave was the same way. I always resisted watching Pearl Harbour just on the fact it seemed to turn a great story into a love story. Dave gave me the best version. We watched the movie. The sappy parts he fast forwarded through with a sarcastic commentary of the events. I got to see a great war story – without the sap – delivered by Dave. It was beautiful.
I did find a letter he sent to us for a drill camp. I will quote a few things that I think show Dave’s humor:
“I know there are many things on your minds this time of year. School is almost out and your not quite sure if you are ready for final exams. You might have a prom coming up and your not sure the date you want will happen and if it does happen what will you wear? Its spring and the critters are acting strange (people are critters too). You may even had time to calculate that after this drill camp there are 48 days left before our first show. And only 29 days to our first performance. The hard part is over. Summer Cometh.
Regiment people have the strength of ten because their hearts are pure. Therefore I can give you more things to put on your minds. Things which you must do.”
The letter then goes on to mention what you should do when being housed by “kind hearted folks who open their homes to members.” “As representatives of the corps there are things you are expected to do and things which you will not do. You are expected to be helpful around the house; follow the rules of the house. If your host doesn’t ask for more than $15.00 or lets you stay for free, you had best do a really fine job of helping around the house.”
Then it goes on to forms to be filled etc: “If your letter has a check on any of the lines that means you owe us that form. It is possible to miss a few but lets presume that our records are perfect and if we say you need to bring a form with you JUST DO IT.”
Man, I can still hear his voice!
There are two things remember about Dave. 1) The hat. No more needs to be said about that.
2) The other was the hands. He would hold them up and wiggle his fingers and say right now we look like this. Then he would line up those huge fingers and say we want it to look like this. Also I learned to never ever shake the man’s hand. He would crush anyone’s fingers who dared to try.
His heart was as big as his hands and he was a huge part of making me who I am. What a special man. Thanks Dave.
I would like to share my first encounter with Mr. St. Angel which happened the summer of 1991. I arrived in Rockford to begin my summer with PRC and by arrived I mean I got lost. I drove around for what seemed forever looking for any landmarks I could remember from the winter camps with no luck. Eventually I resorted to asking gas station attendants if they new where the Phantom Regiment hall was located. To my surprise, none of them knew what I was talking about. You see in my naive mind I thought surely everyone in Rockford knew of the Phantom Regiment out of Rockford / Loves Park, IL. Desperate, I remembered I had brought along all the info I had received in the mail (no email yet) and found Mr. St. Angel’s phone number. I got on the pay phone and nervously called Mr. St. Angel’s home. He answered (which to me sounded like God) and I began to frantically explain myself and I how I found myself lost in Rockford. Mr. St. Angel calmed me down, asked me a few landmark questions, then politely said “Don’t move, I’ll be right there.” He arrived at the gas station shortly after, assured me everything was OK, and to follow him to the corps hall. He saved me.
I admired and respected Mr. St. Angel very much and will always remember how kind he was to me. God bless the St. Angel family and phriends. SUTA!
Mr. St. Angel was more than just a corps director. He was inspirational and very influential to me, not just as our corps director but also on a personal level. My father made it a point to meet him during “move-ins” my first summer with the corps at the age of 15. My father asked for him to “watch over me” and that he did! We were leaving for tour from CherryVale Mall in 1992 and during those couple hours we had to get any last-minute things we may have needed, I elected to go get my ear pierced, which was a BIG no-no to my father and Mr. St. Angel knew that. Well, it wasn’t even 30 minutes after I got back to the bus that I heard a very loud and stern “Braaaaaady, get over here!!!” I sheepishly walked up to him and he yanked on the ear that I had just gotten pierced and said to me, “Your father may not be coming on tour with us, but I sure as hell am, get that thing out of your ear now!” From that point on I knew he was REALLY going to watch over me, LOL! Through the course of that first summer with the corps, I would always go to him when I felt things were getting rough. It was pretty intimidating being in the Regiment as a 15-year-old and at times I felt very overwhelmed. He was always there, always seemed to have the right answers and always gave me some kind of inspiration: to not give up, believe in what we were trying to accomplish as a corps and also always stressed that the most important thing was to believe in myself, which would allow me to accomplish anything. In a nutshell, he really made me feel like I had a father away from home while with the corps. Rest in peace, sir, I learned a great deal from you, not only about drum corps and Phantom Regiment, but also about myself. You will always and forever be missed. SUTA