January was a difficult month for the Phantom Regiment family. Three women who made a significant mark on the organization throughout the 1980s and ’90s (and beyond) died. All had children who marched in Phantom Regiment for many years, and all shared their time and talents for years after their children were members. 

Ron Schulz was either corps director or a tour director with all three and spent many days on tour with them. We asked him to share his thoughts on these wonderful volunteers

Constance (Connie) Mara died January 13. She was 77. 

Connie was a multi-term board member (a seat she shared with her late husband, Gerald) and played key roles with the Phantom Regiment Booster Club and the finance committee. Her initial involvement started when her son, Bryan, was a member of Phantom Regiment Cadets in 1984-86. She joined the sewing crew and was a bus mom. She moved on to Phantom Regiment with Bryan in 1987. She was especially proud of helping make the beautiful snowflake skirts for the “Songs from the Winter Palace” show that year, Bryan said.

“I relied on her help and her knowledge in a very big way,” Schulz said. “She watched over the members and staff as though everyone was a member of her own family. Connie was straight-forward in her decision-making, stayed focused and was always professional. She made my job easier.”

She and her husband along with several others helped run the Purple Knights bingo in Rockford as well. Outside of drum corps, she was a factory nurse for several major companies in the Rockford area and was part of the leadership team running the Corporate Cup wellness program in the area.

Her full obituary can be found HERE

Jacqueline (Jacki) Williams died January 15. She was 76.

Jacki was a 25-year volunteer for Phantom Regiment as well as for its cadet corps and winter guard, serving in many roles, including as Booster Club president. She ran the souvenir program for about 10 years, and it was extremely successful during her tenure, said long-time board president Tim Farrell.

She was a bingo volunteer, a housing parent, and part of the sewing and kitchen crews. When her older daughter, Geri, aged out in 1989, Geri says her mom started doing even more! She housed as many members as her house would hold, one year serving as the house mom for the entire contra line.

Her daughters, Geri and Becki, were members of Phantom Regiment Cadets (Geri 1977-81 and Becki 1979-81, 83-85) and the Phantom Regiment (Geri 1983-1989, Becky 1986). 

“Jacki, among her many volunteer roles, was a touring head cook for the corps during the early years of the food truck,” Schulz said. “She was one of the people who kept track of members and staff who did not go through the food line. I was often one of those people. Jacki would fix a plate for me, find out where I was, and then made sure I ate.”

Geri said she especially loved the time she spent with her best friend, Barb Schantzen, on the sewing crew and her friendship with Red Christensen, one of men responsible for re-forming Phantom Regiment in 1968.

“Me, Becky and her three grandchildren were her life – but Regiment was her passion and love,” Geri said.

In her professional life, she was a bookkeeper and payroll administrator.

Her full obituary is HERE

Barbara (Barb) Pelan died January 22. She was 86.

Barb was a member of the Phantom Regiment Board of Directors for about 20 years (until 2012), including several years as secretary, and was named a director emeritus in 2012. She has five children, three of whom marched with Phantom Regiment Cadets and Phantom Regiment: Lisa marched her final year in 1984, Dana in 1985 (he also served on the board in the 2000s), and Christine in 1989. 

Her involvement with the organization started as a chaperone and cook for the cadet corps in 1979. Later, she chaired the food program and was a key player in getting the corps’ first kitchen trailer ready for the 1988 season, which her children said was a huge source of pride for her. Barb was also a bingo volunteer and worked on the Spook House and the Show of Shows concession stand, which was later run by her son, Dana. She was with Lisa, Dana and Christine to watch Phantom Regiment win the world championship in 2008, and her last in-person show was the 2016 alumni corps. She continued to watch the shows online through 2023.

“Barb was a person I could always talk to on tour. She really absorbed what was happening on the road,” Schulz said. “I remember how much I enjoyed the late-night updates she had for me while sitting around the food truck having snacks with the volunteers after the members had lights-out.”

In her life outside of Phantom Regiment, she was a special education teacher early in her career and then worked for Illinois Public Aid (5 years) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (22 years).

A Celebration of Life will be held March 16 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fitzgerald Funeral Home & Crematory, 1860 S. Mulford Road in Rockford. Her obituary is HERE

Each has asked that memorial contributions be made to Phantom Regiment.

“All three of these folks provided an invaluable gift to Phantom Regiment: their time. We all benefited from their involvement,” Schulz said.