Crest Hill’s Memorial Day celebration was a full celebration indeed.
In addition to honoring the men and women who lost their lives serving the U.S., Crest Hill’s ceremony celebrated the 35th anniversary of its Veterans Memorial Garden and the 28th anniversary of its Police Memorial Garden.
Toward the end of the ceremony, and after the 21-gun salute, Michael Creasey, 33, of Joliet, a teacher at Richland School in Crest Hill, played taps, his role in the ceremony for more than 20 years.
Crest Hill Mayor Ray Soliman, who’s chaired the city’s veteran’s committee since 1994, said Creasey’s grandfather Joseph Gutierrez, a World War II veteran, “used to play taps for us.”
“It helps me keep his legacy alive. It helps me remember why I do what I do in life. Because I enjoy giving back and I feel I have him to thank for that. So every time I do it, even though it’s just once a year, it reignites those memories and keeps my passion for serving others strong.”— Michael Creasey of Joliet, long-time taps player at Crest Hill's annual Memorial Day ceremony
“He asked me one year if he could bring Michael along to be the shadow trumpeter in the background,” Soliman said. “So Michael started out at 11 years old being the shadow trumpeter to his Grandpa Joe.”
Soliman said Creasey became the trumpeter who played taps at the Memorial Day ceremony after Gutierrez died in 2011.
“When he [Creasey] started teaching music, he would bring one of his students along with him,” Soliman said. “That student would then be the shadow trumpeter for taps during the ceremony.”
A heritage of music and service
Creasey said his grandfather taught him to play trumpet when he was just 7 years old.
“When I was old enough, he asked me if I wanted to join the ceremony of 2001,” Creasey said. “I felt it would be nice to use my musical talents to help honor our veterans and give back to the community.”
Gutierrez’s own father played mandolin and trumpet. By 3, Gutierrez was holding a violin and began learning trumpet soon afterward.
“His lessons cost 25 cents,” Gutierrez’s daughter Kimberly Creasey said in a 2011 Herald-News story. “My grandmother would do laundry for his teachers and the neighbors so my father could play for his lessons.”
At Joliet Central High School, Gutierrez worked for the music teachers in exchange for additional lessons. Attending band practices was much harder. Gutierrez often skipped school on Wednesdays so he could work with his father at the EJ&E railroad, Kimberly Creasey said in 2011.
Nevertheless, Gutierrez played in many bands throughout his life. These included the Joliet Symphony Orchestra, Joliet Symphonetts under the direction of Peter Labella. the Bicentennial Park Pops Orchestra, the Joliet American Legion Band, and bands at Lewis University and Joliet Junior College, according to Gutierrez’s obituary.
Gutierrez also played with the Mariachi Potosíno for 20 years and belonged to American Federation of Musicians for more than 50 years, according to his obituary.
“He also was the first bugler at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery,” Kimberly Creasey said in 2011.
Michael Creasey said Gutierrez would ask, “Did you bring your trumpet today?” whenever Michael Creasey visited him, so Gutierrez could refine his grandson’s skills.
But because “we were a family of faith,” Michael Creasey said, Gutierrez also helped mold his grandson’s spirituality.
“He told me I would grow up to become a servant of God,” Michael Creasey said.
That idea of service is the main reason why Michael Creasey still plays taps at Crest Hill’s Memorial Day ceremony every year.
“It helps me keep his legacy alive,” Michael Creasey said. “It helps me remember why I do what I do in life. Because I enjoy giving back and I feel I have him to thank for that. So every time I do it, even though it’s just once a year, it reignites those memories and keeps my passion for serving others strong.”
Michael Creasey said it’s important for people to “really take the inspiration for those role models in our life.”
“You never know when all that is going to come back and leave its mark,” he said.
Soliman called Michael Creasey “a great person” as well as “great educator.”
“I know he has a passion for music,” Soliman said. “And so he’s followed in his grandpa’s footsteps. He’s been with us every year playing taps for our Memorial Day ceremony. I’m really proud of that. Grandpa Joe was a great man, also – a true veteran, through and through.”