“Mr. Repasz” – Earl Williams (1920 – 2008)
A member of the Band since 1938, Earl Williams has affectionately been referred to as “Mr. Repasz.” On
April 10, 1984, Earl was honored by the Repasz band for his faithful and complete service as Business Manager for 24 years. The notes from that evening’s presentation state that “The many ways in which he worked to keep this band alive and flourishing during those years earned him a tribute in this nation’s Congressional Record in November 1977, and he has, over the years, earned the nickname, with many, of ‘Mr. Repasz’.” The duties to which Earl had devoted himself subsequently were divided among five Band members. After a short period of retirement, Earl again agreed to serve as Business Manager, finally
retiring a second time after a total of 27 years of service in that position.
Earl’s contributions were significant in maintaining the Band’s continuous existence into the present era. “In the late 1950s, the Band languished. Rehearsals were held intermittently, and attendance was poor. The future was in doubt. A man named Earl Williams took on the task of saving the band. A member of the Band since 1938, he became Business Manager in 1960. Williams immediately sent out a call for all uniforms
that weren’t going to be filled by committed musicians. He began weekly rehearsals, held to this day 48 weeks a year. Tuesday is ‘Repasz Band Night.’ He took steps to make the Band financially independent,
and in 1960 the name was changed to Repasz Elks Band [from ‘Elks Repasz’].
To help build the band, Williams encouraged women to join, breaking a 137-year tradition. He reached out
to young people, too, holding a series of public concerts in conjunction with area schools. The Band now numbers between”1 65 and 75 members [40-50 was the number in the 1989 issue of InSites], and for the last 10 years has averaged 20 performances annually. The members include students, teachers, professional musicians, and people from all walks of life. All play for love of music, because there is no remuneration for individual members.
In the past, as cited in the article in InSites, some of the Band’s costs were picked up by the American Federation of Musicians; however, as changes occurred in the recording industry, these funds gradually disappeared and are no longer a source of support. The Band’s concert honoraria are paid by the sponsoring organization or grants. Concert halls are provided by through the generosity of local school districts and their Boards of Directors; the Loyalsock Township Recreation Commission; the City of Williamsport Recreation Commission; the Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation; and Williamsport-Lycoming Arts Council have provided support for special events.
“No one attending a Repasz Band concert ever pays admission: that’s the Band’s policy. Rather than competing with other local musical groups, such as the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Scottish Rite Imperial Teteque Band, and the excellent programs in
our county’s schools, the Repasz Band supports and benefits from them. Many members play in more than one organization, and groups arrange schedules to avoid conflicts.”
One of our clarinetists, the late Elmer “Tom” Thomas, recently established a trust fund to allow a “Repasz Band Award” to be presented annually to a graduating senior band member from each of the eight Lycoming County high schools. This is another of the Band’s outreach efforts to raise awareness
in the community of our organization and to continue to recruit new members. [Donations to the Scholarship fund in memory of “Tom” are gratefully
received by the Band.]
“Earl Williams was honored in 1988 for half a century with the Band, the tenth such member to be recognized since 1960. Ironically, he instituted the
award 28 years ago.
Having been with the Band for a third of its long life, Williams has become its unofficial historian. He tells stories of many memorable characters associated with the Band: of John Hazel, the ‘triple-tongued’ cornet player who had played with Buffalo Bill’s Circus and had performed before the
crowned heads of Europe. Hazel also composed more than 70 pieces of music, and directed the Repasz Band in a performance for his close friend,
John Philip Sousa, that won the master’s praise.” Another colorful story involved William Kilpatrick, a flamboyant drum major whose baton led the Band in European performances around the turn of the century. ” ‘Family legend’ has it that Kilpatrick spent some time, too, with Ringling Brothers Barnum &
Bailey Circus – until he lost two fingers while feeding carrots to a bear in the menagerie. Whether this aborted his career as baton twirler is unclear. However, Williams was told that Kilpatrick ended his days by falling over some railroad tracks and breaking his neck. The Repasz Band played at his funeral.”1