by Beth Myers
The Kilties snare line will be marching an empty spot during all retreats in their 2003 season in honor of a man they counted among the Kiltie brotherhood yet barely had time to get to know.
Bill Mello, from all accounts, couldn’t wait to call himself a Kiltie. He eagerly awaited the corps’ annual October open house where he wasted no time in paying his dues in full and ordering his member jacket. Most of the day, he wore a grin that showed his satisfaction at the thought of marching again.
Paul Mello, Bill’s brother, recently recounted his brother’s drum corps background.
“In 1962, he found his true love. Middleboro (MA) was starting a brand new group, a drum and bugle corps called the Sacred Heart Sabres,” Paul said. “By the time Bill was ready for the Middleboro High School Band, the band instructor made him make a choice: the band or that ‘drum and bugle thing.’ Do you really need me to tell you his answer?”
By 1965, the Sacred Heart Sabres had gone to the top of Class C and were competing in Class B. Bill and Paul were now both members of the corps. The 1966 season, according to Paul, saw the Sacred Heart Sabres as the elite of the Class B.
“We won the Eastern Massachusetts Championship, The CYO circuit championship and our prize — we were crowned 1966 World Champions of Class B on August 20, 1966, at 6:07 PM . . . not that I recall it exactly,” recalls Paul.
The Sacred Heart Sabres went undefeated through 22 contests that year. They moved into Class A and continued as a success, but by 1969, financial problems did not allow the corps to continue.
Bill joined the Interstatesmen of New York. His brother believes he marched from 1975 to 1977, and Bill made more lifelong drum corps friends. Bill continued with various bands in Pittsburgh and Battle Creek. He even toured Europe one summer, but always missed the drum corps experience.
“Finally,” Paul said, “I convinced him to find a senior corps. I think it was the first time he ever listened to me.”
Bill followed up his October open house rehearsal weekend with the next Kilties camp in November, but that would be the last time the corps would see Bill. After two rehearsal weekends, and having the time of his life again, Bill was forced to admit that his medical condition was deteriorating. He had told no one in the corps, prior to his regretful resignation, that he had cancer. As the corps found out later, Bill knew all along that had little time to live, but he was hoping to spend the last year of his life doing what he loved to do — march drum corps.
When it became obvious to Bill and his family that he would not be able to march the season, he had hoped to make it to the Kilties first competition as a spectator, cheering on the corps which still held his membership in good stead. When even that goal became unreachable due to Bill’s quickly failing health, Paul made arrangements to bring Bill to the Kilties March camp.
The corps made plans to play through their 2003 repertoire for Bill, including the beloved Auld Lang Syne. At the February camp, the corps took up a collection to purchase a Buchanan plaid tartan sash with rosette, a Buchanan clan silver cap badge and a Buchanan clan silver kilt pin. Percussion caption head Mark Watson, a Kilties alumnus, donated his plaid brooch, worn in Drum Corps International Finals and many other competitions. All of these items were to be presented to Bill at the time of the special March camp performance.
Repeating the Kiltie battle cry often to his brother, “Wea Winnea Bea Daunted,” which translates to “We will not be defeated,” Bill held to life as long as he could, hoping to see the corps once again. But this goal also proved to be too much for Bill.
February 6, Bill Mello lost his battle with cancer. His family was at his side.
Paul expressed in a letter to the corps what the Kilties had meant to his brother. Bill Mello was buried with a small Scottish flag, signifying his link to the Kilties. A sign declaring “Wea Winnea Bea Daunted” hung in his office until the day of his passing. Referring to the Kilties, Paul added, “He loved you. In the short time that he knew you, he was home again — a world champion once again.”
The Kilties presented the items to Bill’s family along with a presentation letter. The last sentence of the letter reads “William (Bill) Mello will always be remembered, as are all other Kilties who have gone before us, when we express the Kiltie battle cry . . . Wea Winnea Bea Daunted.”
His family expressed their thanks in a letter that said in part, “The membership and Kiltie organization show of kindness proved to Bill and my family that, as Bill always stated, the Kilties are the world’s greatest drum corps.”