Drum Corps International
A Volunteer remembered: Evelyn Zarlengo

A Volunteer remembered: Evelyn Zarlengo

by Drum Corps International


Evelyn Zarlengo in action
I never met Evelyn Zarlengo. I regret that, as she sounds like she was quite a neat lady. Evelyn was one of those tireless, selfless volunteers that make drum corps function. She devoted her efforts and energy to the Eldoradans and later, Sky Ryders, among many other units. We often take such volunteers for granted, despite the work they put in, the countless hours, and the primitive living conditions they're willing to endure on tour -- long after most drum corps age-outs have sworn off their last night's sleep without the benefit of a comfortable bed and full bathroom a few feet away. Evelyn passed away just a few months ago. She would have celebrated her birthday this coming week, on September 11. The following is a personal remembrance from her son, Jim Zarlengo. "Evelyn Zarlengo loved drum corps. She had a passion for it. I remember when we got our first drum corps albums and tapes. My mother would wear them out. She would tell all of our families' friends about our trips; not just from a parent's pride point of view, but also with a passion about the activity she loved so much. "She was a behind-the-scenes support and caring person, but she always loved drum corps ideals, its love for all kids from all backgrounds, and the family it created for her thousands of friends around the country. My mother was always actively engaged in preparation, fund-raising, phone calling, sewing, driving, feeding, nurturing, nursing, and even encouraging others to do more for the activity, and the kids who were blessed so much to be involved in this 'greatest youth activity on planet earth!' "She was one of those supporters not only of DCI and its ideals, but also of anyone she came in contact with. I remember on many hot days, when everyone else wanted to take a nap, she went to the busses and pulled out the heavy vats and crates of food or water or equipment, in order to spare someone else from having to do it. "My mother supported about eight guards and bands, through transportation, sewing, feeding, and cleaning up as well as encouraging and caring for members, staff, and even bus drivers. The drum corps and winter guards she was involved with include the Capitolaires, Final Analysis, Odyssey, Silver Sabres, Eldoradans and Sky Ryders. She loved to watch drum corps and talk about it and all the friends she made. "One of my memories on tour with the Sky Ryders was when we crossed paths with a smaller struggling corps, and we found out that they were in financial dire straits. My mother pulled out her personal checkbook and wrote a check for a few hundred dollars to help them out! She not only loved the Sky Ryders, but all drum corps people. "I remember a contest we were in where she overheard the contest director saying that they were lacking funds and hadn't found housing for one corps. She took him aside and wrote him a check to help him out. I asked her if she could afford that and she said 'we can make it ... we are supposed to help!' She never had a lot of money but always supported a good cause. "I will always remember the images of her bringing uniform repair (or whatever task she was handling) out to the practice field so she could watch. She would describe in detail every show and event related to drum corps to my father when he wasn't able to travel with us. She convinced him to tour with us and he became a cook, driver, task man and equipment carrier as well. One time on a trip to finals, everyone, including parents, was given a free day and I found my mother working on uniform repair while she was watching her favorite corps rehearse, the Muchachos. "There are so many memories, but the clearest one is that of my mother giving everything she had; whether physically, financially or emotionally, to further others' passion for the activity she loved so much. There are literally thousands of kids whose lives will never be the same because my mother encouraged them to stay in there, and countless parents and staff who were influenced by her positive, absolutely no-negative attitude. "She taught many people who were weary, or uninvolved, or disillusioned that it is worth the extra effort to support drum corps. She was offered gifts and checks a few times for her efforts and she always graciously said 'No, give it to the kids for the corps.' She lived out the truths 'Give and it shall be given to you,' and 'It is more blessed to give than receive.' My mother's love for me and all our family members was limitless and unconditional, as was her love for drum corps, second only to her love for God. She was a blessed woman. Thanks, Jim Z." Jim went on to provide a number of e-mails he received upon his mother's passing. Here are a few representative ones. "Your sister and family may not remember me, but you were all my family for the two most important summers of my life." -- Rex Seigler (Sky Ryders) "Evelyn was always strong and full of energy and will be missed, I call my kids 'Sug' because Eve called me that." -- Mike Dagner (Eldoradans/Silver Sabres) "I'm so sorry to hear about your mother passing away. It's been many years since I last saw her, but I certainly remember all of her untiring efforts with the Eldoradans and the Sky Ryders during the 1970s and 1980s." -- Steve Vickers, publisher of Drum Corps World "I received a forwarded e-mail this morning telling us of the passing of your mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I remember your mother coming to Hutch and helping out with the corps and traveling during the summer. It was her type of help that made sure the corps stayed running the many years that it did and had the success that it did." -- Dale Antoine (Sky Ryders member 1971-1978, Sky Ryders Director 1986-1988, present DCI event coordnator) "Very sad news to hear, my friend. She was the best! I'll think of her many times today, and of the warmth and care she had for everyone. Awfully sad to hear the news, but HAPPY to have known her." -- Mark Johnstone (Sky Ryders) "I am so sorry to hear the news. I know how supportive your mother was of drum corps. I was lucky to have met her. She was a wonderful person." -- Greg Hargrove "I am so sorry for your great loss. I have so many great memories of the 'old' Sky Ryder days, and all of the things your Mom meant to us all. She was tireless and always so concerned with the well-being of the kids. I can still see that van pull up to the field in Hutch and see all those people fall out ready for a weekend camp, or the start of a tour. Her energy was boundless, and she always had a kind word and encouragement not only to the kids, but to the staff as well. We all are better people because she was there. I send all my love and hope at this time of great sorrow." -- Lee Carlson "I'm very sorry to hear about your mother's passing. Having spent nearly all of my childhood and a good part of my adult life involved with drum corps, I truly appreciate her commitment to such a worthwhile endeavor. With Kind Regards, Mark 'Kowalski' Mittelstaedt (She named me 'Kowalski' because of the jacket I wore as a kid with a big 'Kawasaki' patch on the back :-)" "I was so sorry to hear about your mother. She was a wonderful person and I have such fond memories of her. One story that comes to mind is when Odyssey traveled to the Denver regional and your sweet mother invited us all over and cooked a spectacular home-cooked meal for us. It was wonderful Italian food. We ate until we were stuffed. I remember thinking how special she was to welcome such a large crowd of smart-alecks like we were into her home. Of course, there are numerous similar memories (seems like most are food-related ... ) during my years with Sky Ryders, as well. I remember her joining us mid-tour one year and suddenly, we started eating SO much better! Gone were the peanut butter sandwiches and here came the hot meals! She made sure all of us were taken care of." -- Mary Jones-Ball "From days of Sky Ryders old there are many fond memories and friends. It is hard not to remember your mother and liking her. She always had a smile on her face. She loved the kids and staff and always worked hard to help anyone she could. She worked under some hard conditions but never complained. She never said a bad thing about anyone. She was the ultimate corps mom. She will be sorely missed." -- Dr. Dean L Carter, DPM ("Doc Sox") "I have such fond memories of 'Mrs. Z', as we sometimes referred to her in corps. I jokingly called her my 'Second Mom', but it wasn't really a joke. She was a good friend to me during an important period of my life. She was always around, ready to lend a hand, or a smile, or just to chat." -- Mike Cherven "I am very sorry about your recent family loss. When I look back at my many memories in drum corps, Evelyn is a big part of them. She was a very dedicated volunteer and I am sure that she has touched many lives, as she has mine, in a very positive way. I do hope that God helps you find the strength to get through these tough times." -- Mark Cherven and family "I was forwarded an e-mail about your mom. I'm sorry to hear about her passing. Please accept my greatest sympathy to you and your family. She was a great lady and I remember her fondly. She was like a mother to all of us in drum corps." -- Alan Mueggenborg "The woman was the most caring, hardest working, friendly AND had a great sense of humor. While I was only in corps a short while, I saw these characteristics on a regular basis for many, many years." -- Rick Zarlengo (PGA, Eldoradans) "Evelyn Zarlengo was a wonderful lady. She worked hard and always had a smile and something funny to say to brighten up our days on tour. She was awesome." -- Deana Forester Swanson (Sky Ryders guard staff 1986, member 1983-1984) "I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. I only got to be around her a little while, but long enough to find out she was the absolute sweetest." -- Keith Hall "Regarding the comments about Evelyn, do they have room for a novel? I know that she touched my whole family, my three brothers and of course myself. We all marched in Sky Ryders and I can't remember a tour without Mrs. Zarlengo. "One of the most memorable moments was her making homemade lasagna and Italian sausage for the entire corps and having us over to her house to eat. We pulled up in four buses plus equipment trucks and parked on the street in front of the Zarlengo home. Over 140 of us on tour went through the house to get our food. She never blinked an eye. It was as if she were serving her own family. "We all called her 'Mom' and that was for a good reason. That title is given to those who go above and beyond the ordinary and she always did. She will forever be remembered as the soft spoken, funny, diligent, loving mom that she was. She will not be forgotten." -- Mary Searcy-Price "This acknowledgement and tribute is LONG overdue. I knew Mrs. Zarlengo very well from the very old days of junior drum corps in Denver, Colorado. She was the 'go-to' person for the old Eldoradans corps. If you needed ANYTHING, 'Mrs. Z' was the 'Lady With the Lamp' (among many other things). "I remember a bus breakdown, in the dead of winter, returning from a color guard contest in Casper, Wyoming. There we were, stranded, in a howling blizzard, literally in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE Wyoming, and Mrs. Z. was THE calming influence on a bus load of very worried young ladies." -- SAM "As I remember back on our drum corps experience with the Blue Knights and Eldoradans, Evelyn Zarlengo was much more than a selfless volunteer. She was also a great mentor. When I came to corps, I lacked many social skills. The summer of 1973, when our corps didn't make it to DCI in Madison, she drove a group of us on a very long trip from Denver. At a gas stop, I was reluctant to pay when asked to. She was patient with me and I paid later on. My own parents would have not been so patient in that situation. "We were heckled by a group of youths during the 1974 Gateway to the Rockies parade. I reacted afterward in a stereotypical way and she lovingly rebuked me, which helped me to overcome that behavior. Later on I remember being apologetic to her for something someone else had done and she helped me see that I didn't have to feel responsible for the actions of others, which helped free me up from carrying around a lot of guilt. "She was not only DCI's biggest supporter (behind the scenes), but also its biggest fan, and a parent to many, many kids and staff. She was always giving of herself and always caring about everyone. I have seen and been around drum corps for 30 years, and have yet to see a more dedicated, drum corps supporting, loving, giving person as Evelyn Z." -- Les Scott "There is no greater Love than one laying down or putting aside their life for a friend. Evelyn Zarlengo gave her life to drum corps and color guard members and staff since 1970 in the Colorado and Kansas area. She unselfishly gave her time, talents, and resources to make sure the members of her corps or guard were nourished, clothed, cleaned up, and housed in clean and safe accommodations, always enthusiastically and with a smile. "She was often short of words, but full of giving and grace. Her sacrificing for others was the most unselfish actions of any person whom I have ever come in contact with. She always put herself last and gave of herself for her friends, which were corps members, guard members and staffs. Eve's family shared her with us in Love and always supported her efforts to help others in the drum corps family. "Evelyn was the person assuming the most difficult tasks an organization could have, the jobs no one wanted to do but that needed to be done. She was the one person on whom we could always depend. No matter when or where, Mrs. Z never accepted praise or gratitude, she assumed it was all part of the joy of commitment. "Eve was one in a billion. Many people learned from her, but she will never be duplicated. She touched us and our lives will never be the same without her. "She left us proud of the way she gave of her life. From now on when I see a drum major salute it will be for Evelyn Zarlengo." -- Larry Roads "Mrs. Z. was an inspiration to me and to all those who were lucky enough to know her. She worked tirelessly and with great joy. When she traveled with us, (Eldoradans 1970-1978, Capitolaires 1979, Sky Ryders 1980-1987, Odyssey 1984-1986) she was proud of every kid she helped feed and get ready. In fact, if you marched while she was there, she probably still remembered your name, where you were from, and something about you. "While on tour with Sky Ryders, after a full day of grocery shopping and food preparation in less than ideal conditions, her greatest thrill was to finish her work and sit down ... in the stands, making sure she had a great seat for the show. When the scores were low, or we didn't have good facilities, or the bus (or buses) broke down, she took it all in stride. "Her sense of humor and positive attitude was always apparent, no matter how tired she was. She taught us all the meaning of perseverance. She was like a mom to so many kids through the years, but I was and am blessed to be her daughter. She was a great corps mom and guard mom, but she was an even better wife and mother. The biggest compliment anyone ever gave me was that I'm a little bit like my mom!" --Lori Alyce Zarlengo As mentioned earlier, Evelyn would have been celebrating her birthday on September 11. Granted, anyone whose birthday falls on that date has found that the events of two years ago dramatically overshadow anything else that happens on that date, including birthdays. But when you're paying homage in your own way to the victims of 9-11, and reflecting on how the terrorist events forever changed this country, maybe you can reflect on the life and purpose of one who gave her life to drum corps. One who represented all those who love and cherish drum corps and who are more interested in serving the activity than being served by it. If you can, please, for even a moment, remember the life of someone who loved drum corps and those who are in it ... as much as she loved life itself. Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.

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