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W. Ward Stauth

Circus music lover W. Ward Stauth of Corydon died Monday, July 16, at 8:40 a.m. at Indian Creek Rehab Center in Corydon. He was 93.
Stauth achieved national fame through an extraordinary group of circus music devotees who went by the name of Windjammers Unlimited. These men and women, many of them retirees, gathered three times each year in different parts of the country to record and play authentic circus music.
Stauth organized at least five Windjammer conventions and concerts in Corydon, usually in connection with the annual meeting of the Harrison County Soil and Water Conservation District, of which he was a director. Hundreds of people attended the free concerts (often during bad wintry weather) at the Corydon Elementary School, mainly because they were so much fun.
Professional and amateur musicians joined local musicians like Hurst Miles, Max Martin and Charles and Paul Conrad for the rousing, toe-tapping concerts. At least two times the “Toscanini of the Big Top,” Merle Evans, the legendary director of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, came here to calmly direct the concerts, even though he was in his 90s and had been retired for years. There were other colorful musicians, too. William (Boom Boom) Browning of Newark, Ohio, played the drums; Ronald Grundberg came from Chicago to play the euphonium (not to mention a garden hose); composer and arranger Robert P. Hills Jr. came from Delaware, Ohio, to play the piccolo and conduct the band, and Harvey Phillips, the “world’s greatest tuba player,” came in from Indiana University in Bloomington. One year, in 1982, a female circus aerialist performed a “high-wire” act on a rope held by her husband.
Max Martin played in many of those concerts. He remembered, “Ward Stauth and Hurst Miles were the two local guys who kept circus band music alive after Hurley Conrad died. Ward Stauth was the music man and Hurst Miles did the directing.” Miles died in 1993.
About Stauth, Martin said, “Circus music, that was his love in life.”
The last Windjammers concert here was on July 17, 1998, a sultry Saturday afternoon, at the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand on the Corydon square. One hundred and fifty-five musicians played that day. Stauth, 90 and deaf, was the guest of honor. He was given a Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon.
Stauth had more than a million feet of circus music tapes in his home, and he knew where each piece could be found. He had hoped to start a circus music museum, but the project never became a reality.
Stauth had a large farm west of Corydon, and he was co-owner of Stauth Brothers Construction Co. in Corydon. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and was a member of VFW Old Capitol Post 2950.
He is survived by one brother, John Stauth of Englewood, Colo., nieces and nephews, and Bonnie Smith, a friend who cared for him.
The funeral was Wednesday, July 18, at Gehlbach & Royse Funeral Home in Corydon with burial at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Corydon. Military rites were performed at the grave.
Pallbearers will be Richard Smith Jr., Richard Smith Sr., Sheldon and Donald Albin, Max Martin and James V. Denbo.
Expressions of sympathy may take the form of contributions to the Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church building fund.

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