OBITUARY

William J. Laskey

October 3, 1922June 8, 2018
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William J. Laskey, age 95, of Crystal Lake, passed away at home on June 8, 2018.

Bill was born to William Jennings and Gertrude Laskey on October 3, 1922, in Chicago. Bill loved music and began playing clarinet and saxophone as a boy. By high school, he was playing big band gigs, eventually performing with Charlie Thornill and Claude Ventura. He served in World War II in the Army Air Corps as a radio operator, stationed in India.

After the war, Bill studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he met his future wife Joanne. He also studied at Roosevelt University and the University of Illinois, earning a BA in Clarinet Performance and an MA in Music Education. Bill then embarked on a career as a high school band director, teaching for nine years in the small town of Rossville, Illinois. In 1963, Bill and Joanne moved to Crystal Lake where Bill eventually became head of the music department at Crystal Lake Central (Community) High School. During his tenure, he taught beginning band, symphonic band, jazz band, marching band, and music theory and appreciation. He also conducted the pit orchestra for the annual school musical.

In the 1970s, Bill expanded and revamped the Crystal Lake marching band program to include summer competitions. The Heraldry Guard, which included students from both Central and South High Schools, took part in more than a dozen competitions each summer throughout the Midwest. Under Bill’s leadership, the band won numerous competitions and accolades for their marching, innovation, and musicianship. It was ranked among the top 10 marching bands nationally.

Following his retirement from teaching in 1980, Bill became an accomplished photographer, with his work appearing in national magazines and even on billboards. At the age of 79, he took flying lessons and achieved his long-held dream of earning a pilot’s license. He also found time to travel, golf, play bridge, and attend theatre performances. And he remained immersed in music, conducting musicals at the Woodstock Opera House and recording several solo CDs that featured him playing jazz standards on saxophone. In recent years, the Crystal Lake Strikers drumline established the William Laskey scholarship, awarded each year to aspiring percussion students. Bill also was honored to be chosen as the grand marshal for Crystal Lake’s Independence Day Parade (2015).

Bill is survived by his children, Elizabeth (Bruce) Laskey, John (Liz) Laskey, Mary (Grant) Laskey, and James Laskey, as well as his dear companion, Betty Jean Stoltze.

In addition to his parents and sister (Dorothy Smith), Bill was preceded in death by his wife, Joanne, on June 22, 1995. A loving father, uncle, friend, and an inspirational teacher, Bill will be greatly missed.

Visitation will be on June 29 at Querhammer & Flagg Funeral Home, 500 W. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake, from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. There will be a memorial service on June 30 at 10:00 AM at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 210 McHenry Ave. Crystal Lake.

For those wishing to send an expression of condolence, the family suggests memorials be sent to Pioneer Center for Human Services, 4031 W. Dayton Street, McHenry, IL 60050.

https://www.pioneercenter.org/support/make-a-donation-today/

  • FAMILY

  • Elizabeth (Bruce) Laskey, Daughter
  • John (Liz) Laskey, Son
  • Mary (Grant) Laskey, Daughter
  • James Laskey, Son
  • Betty Jean Stoltze, Companion
  • Joanne Laskey, Wife
  • William Jennings Laskey, Father
  • Gertrude Laskey, Mother

Services

  • Memorial Visitation Friday, June 29, 2018
  • Memorial Service Saturday, June 30, 2018
REMEMBERING

William J. Laskey

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Mark Eckel

June 27, 2018

When I think of Bill Laskey, I'm reminded of the line from Dan Fogelberg's Leader of the Band: "...but his blood runs through my instrument, and his song is in my soul..." I passed through the band just before the Heraldry Guard years (I'm glad because I hated marching!), and so many of my most cherished high school memories are connected with this great teacher. The pit orchestras for the musicals were a challenge, playing muted or mezzo piano in singers' keys, but Bill was always patient as we went over and over the music. I'll never forget our senior year, when the Symphonic Band, Orchestra, and Jazz Band all earned firsts at contests, and what a pleasure it was to play challenging music at a high level under his skillful direction. (And Mr. Shirk's too!) Bill took a personal interest in his students, too. He gave me the best advice I ever got, that with my interests I'd be happier with music as an avocation rather than a career. He was right. I enjoyed my career as a sociology professor, and was also able to hear all sorts of live music, from the Lyric Opera to the Velvet Lounge. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to co-teach one of my courses paired with Music Appreciation, and I was struck with how easy it was to prepare, thanks almost entirely to Bill's Music Appreciation/Music Theory course I took so many years ago.

But Bill's greatest impact on me was introducing me to jazz, guiding my understanding and taste as I grew from The Tijuana Brass as a freshman to Ornette Coleman as a senior. Jazz has been my devotion ever since, and this never would have happened without Bill Laskey. Thanks, Bill. "Bird Lives," as we say, and so do you.

Mark Woodhull

June 25, 2018

I had the pleasure of performing in marching band for my freshman year under Mr. Laskey before my family moved to South America. Mr. Laskey asked me to learn to play the big sousaphone because I was the tallest kid in the marching band. So I did. I had no clue what I was doing at first, but Mr. Laskey taught me. It turned into an enriching life experience for me. Thank you, Mr. Laskey.

William Laskey. A life well lived...

Jane Snook Sattelberg

June 21, 2018

So sorry for your loss. I have very fond memories of marching band and being friends with Liz.

Peggy Louis

June 18, 2018

I was not in marching band, but Bill's daughter, Liz, was a friend. I haven't seen you in years, Liz, but I always remember you as someone who accepted and befriended me. Jane S passed the obit on to me. I'm sorry for your loss. My dad (91) was visiting for the weekend and I read the obit to him. It finally clicked and he remembered who your dad was. We are lucky to have had them as long as we have. Hugs and sympathy to you and your family.

Brad Brandeau

June 18, 2018

ALL of us who had the privilege of being a student under the direction and inspiration of Bill Laskey were profoundly blessed. Our lives were changed in the most positive ways because of him. He was a true GIFT as an educator, teacher, mentor and human. I was lucky to have shared a few emails and snail mails with Mr. Laskey a few years back where we exchanged some CD's and memories of times gone by, along with the secret Hoagie Recipe that helped us raise funds for the empire he built: The Heraldry Guard. He built some of the strongest memories in the lives of so many students that will continue to influence all of us as life goes on. There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: Music and Cats Albert Schwiezer, Thank you Mr. Laskey for all of YOU that you gave to all of US. You were one of the greatest gifts in my life. Rest Peacefully and we'll all see you on the other side... I'll bring some brushes and we can jam! God Bless you and your family.

Bert Staehling

June 16, 2018

I got to spend a lot of time with Bill teaching him how to fly. I have met very few people in my life who were as generous, fun-loving and enjoyed life as much as Bill. He was a dear and true friend.

Ginny (Schoephoerster) Qualmann

June 15, 2018

He affected my life profoundly! What a gifted, dear teacher and man! RIP, Mr. Laskey.

Judy (O’Donnell) Thoreson

June 15, 2018

Mr. Laskey convinced me to switch to the bass clarinet after years of playing clarinet. I had chipped my front tooth and he said this would make me a better bass clarinetist......I think ( In hindsight) he just needed someone to play the bass clarinet! He was a great instructor I have never forgotten.

Mary Laskey

June 14, 2018

Always stylish--one of my favorite photos of my dad wearing a "Zoot Suit".

Tina Zvolanek

June 13, 2018

I still play my clarinet. You were a great teacher

Biography

William J. Laskey, age 95, of Crystal Lake, passed away at home on June 8, 2018.

Bill was born to William Jennings and Gertrude Laskey on October 3, 1922, in Chicago. Bill loved music and began playing clarinet and saxophone as a boy. By high school, he was playing big band gigs, eventually performing with Charlie Thornill and Claude Ventura. He served in World War II in the Army Air Corps as a radio operator, stationed in India.

After the war, Bill studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where he met his future wife Joanne. He also studied at Roosevelt University and the University of Illinois, earning a BA in Clarinet Performance and an MA in Music Education. Bill then embarked on a career as a high school band director, teaching for nine years in the small town of Rossville, Illinois. In 1963, Bill and Joanne moved to Crystal Lake where Bill eventually became head of the music department at Crystal Lake Central (Community) High School. During his tenure, he taught beginning band, symphonic band, jazz band, marching band, and music theory and appreciation. He also conducted the pit orchestra for the annual school musical.

In the 1970s, Bill expanded and revamped the Crystal Lake marching band program to include summer competitions. The Heraldry Guard, which included students from both Central and South High Schools, took part in more than a dozen competitions each summer throughout the Midwest. Under Bill’s leadership, the band won numerous competitions and accolades for their marching, innovation, and musicianship. It was ranked among the top 10 marching bands nationally.

Following his retirement from teaching in 1980, Bill became an accomplished photographer, with his work appearing in national magazines and even on billboards. At the age of 79, he took flying lessons and achieved his long-held dream of earning a pilot’s license. He also found time to travel, golf, play bridge, and attend theatre performances. And he remained immersed in music, conducting musicals at the Woodstock Opera House and recording several solo CDs that featured him playing jazz standards on saxophone. In recent years, the Crystal Lake Strikers drumline established the William Laskey scholarship, awarded each year to aspiring percussion students. Bill also was honored to be chosen as the grand marshal for Crystal Lake’s Independence Day Parade (2015).

Bill is survived by his children, Elizabeth (Bruce) Laskey, John (Liz) Laskey, Mary (Grant) Laskey, and James Laskey, as well as his dear companion, Betty Jean Stoltze.

In addition to his parents and sister (Dorothy Smith), Bill was preceded in death by his wife, Joanne, on June 22, 1995. A loving father, uncle, friend, and an inspirational teacher, Bill will be greatly missed.