Phillys Meade turned 66 years old on tour, a tour she almost didn't make due to her health.

"I went on tour in 1982 with Velvet Knights, when my son, Dr. Jay David Meade was marching drum corps. He is now the director of Impulse, and was one of the founders of the corps.

"I did quite a bit after 1982, but I was working two jobs and that made it difficult to volunteer for tour duty. When I was 55 years old, I had my first open heart surgery, a double valve replacement. I still volunteered when I could, on and off, until Velvet Knights disbanded.

"There were a few years where I did no volunteer work for corps, but I still went to shows. Six years ago, my son became involved with this new corps, and I got involved again. I heard from my son, 'Mom, I'd like you to help with the souvies.' Of course, I said, 'Okay, I'll try it.' I had already had the open-heart surgery.

Phillys Meade

"It's been touch and go, but it's been good. And to tell the truth, it gives me a chance to be with my son. I still live on the beach in Camp Pendleton. I retired from working with the Marines after 34 years as a retail manager, but I still work part-time with the Marines. "I don't want to be lazy, and I really get upset that I can't do as much as I used to and I can't do it as fast. I'm not used to other people doing stuff for me, but I can still sell souvenirs. I just can't lift the heavy boxes.

"Since the first open-heart surgery, I had to have it done again to fix wrong-sized valves. I've been on oxygen for the past year, ever since I went to the Grand Canyon and the altitude made me listless and shake. My sister said my lips and nails were blue.

"When I told friends I was going to Denver, they were concerned for my health. I found out just his past Friday afternoon that the specialist was going to okay my trip, and therefore my doctor would approve it. I have oxygen available all the time and I wear a hose around my head that is ready to deliver the oxygen into my nose when needed. I have a company that is delivering six more oxygen canisters tomorrow morning. I have a machine at the hotel that concentrates the air into oxygen for when I sleep.

"During the day, I do use more oxygen than normal due to the high altitude, but it's worth putting up with this to be with the corps. The kids work so hard...they don't complain that much. They start out barely being able to do anything. And the end result is being able to see them on the field doing what they do best.

"I clap for all of them. People think I'm nuts. My son calls me 'Crazy Lady.'

"This trip was made possible by my niece, Cheryl Tillman of Stillwater, OK. Her family asked her to postpone another trip to accompany me. She did so more to please her family and alleviate family tensions. But she knew I was coming to Denver whether she came or not. I drove from California to Stillwater by myself to pick her up.

"Cheryl is new to drum corps, but she thinks it is awesome.

"I want to thank Cheryl for coming, and I want to thank everyone with the corps for being so good to me. I'll continue to do this as long as the Lord lets me. That's for sure."