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The Times
  • Frankfort family, drum corps share special bond

  • Jody Swatling lost her life to cancer in 2009.

    Her father, Edwin Smith, wanted a drumline for her graveside service in Frankfort, as Swatling, a special education teacher at a middle school in Maine, began taking drum lessons in fourth grade and pursued her passion as a member of the Frankfort-Schuyler High School Marching Band.

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  • Jody Swatling lost her life to cancer in 2009.
    Her father, Edwin Smith, wanted a drumline for her graveside service in Frankfort, as Swatling, a special education teacher at a middle school in Maine, began taking drum lessons in fourth grade and pursued her passion as a member of the Frankfort-Schuyler High School Marching Band.
    He called a few high school percussionists, but no one was available.
    “Her sister noticed there was a drum corps staying at Herkimer High School for the Drums Along the Mohawk show in Rome that year,” said Smith.
    He considered it a long shot, but Smith spoke with Brian Prato, tour coordinator for the Jersey Surf, and asked if he could assist him by providing a drummer for the service.
    While Prato and Bob Jacobs, corps director, realized the Surf were staying in the area an extra day, an unusual bonus for a Drum Corps International drum and bugle corps that is often in a different city almost every day throughout the summer, it was a highly unusual request that Prato had never encountered in all his years with many different corps.
    Prato said the corps has a philosophy they pass to the young adults, “If you do the right thing for the right reasons, things will work out. It may not be apparent at the time, but eventually it will show.”
    For Prato and Jacobs, “this just felt like the right thing to do.”
    When Smith arrived at his daughter’s grave 24 members of the Jersey Surf in full dress uniform, the complete drumline, were waiting at attention. “What a sight,” he said.
    Jacobs said the drumline started their standard cadence just as the hearse pulled up.
    Prato and Jacobs were given an unexpected donation from the family and felt that was the end of it.
    The day before Swatling’s death Smith spoke with his daughter. She told him her worst fear was that she would be forgotten. An emotional dad told his daughter he would never let her be forgotten.
    After the drum corps season ended, Smith had several discussions with Jacobs and Prato. The Smith family then made a donation to the Jersey Surf to establish the Jody Smith Swatling Memorial Fund.
    Asked why he made the donation, Smith said simply, “They came when I asked.”
    Prato said the Surf are grateful to Swatling’s family for their generosity and commitment to their drum corps. The donation allows students who have difficulty paying the tour fee to join the Surf.
    “Our relationship with the Smiths is a special one and provides us with yet another opportunity to reflect on our organizational values and on our philosophy of working to ‘Share the Love’ with everyone with whom we interact. It is very obvious that Jody was an extraordinary and beloved educator, and we hope to continue to honor her memory and embody her vibrant spirit,” said Jacobs.
    Page 2 of 2 - With the Surf returning to Drums Along the Mohawk this year, they have invited Swatling’s family to spend time with them during their extra day in Herkimer and to meet the recipients of their grant.
    “It amazes us every year when we hear the stories about the connections — corps to community and residents to corps members. Very often we hear them after the fact, but this year it was great to hear about stories before the show,” said Claudette Wire, director of the Drums Along the Mohawk show.
    “Most Drum Corps International corps come into a show like Drums Along the Mohawk and stay for approximately 24 hours. Many of the corps members may never interact with the community where they stay, but there are those times when a connection is made in the community and the impact makes a difference in both of their lives,” Wire added.
    The 35th annual Drums Along the Mohawk will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 1, at Rome Free Academy Stadium on Turin Street in Rome.
    “On the field that evening will be a student wearing a Jersey Surf uniform thanks to the generosity of the Smith family and marching with the angel of the never forgotten Jody Smith Swatling,” said Wire.
    Tickets for Drums Along the Mohawk are available at www.drumsalongthemohawk.com, by calling 339-6484 and at the Rome Free Academy box office from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every night until the show.
    This year’s lineup includes The Academy of Tempe, Ariz.; the Blue Knights of Denver, Colo.; the Blue Stars of La Crosse, Wis.; The Cascades of Seattle, Wash.; the Jersey Surf of Camden County, N.J.; the Oregon Crusaders of Portland, Ore.; and The Troopers of Casper, Wyo.

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