Trumpet Gives Comfort to Tacoma Widower

Widower Don Brittain from Tacoma, Washington bought a trumpet 60 years ago at the tender age of 18. Now, the 78-years-old has picked up the horn and has renewed his love for it.

He was inspired watching the news on television two years ago when he saw trumpeters playing taps. He learned the memorial tune: “It was the same 24 notes it had always been,” he told The News Tribune.

Brittan feels it's his way to support the troops so he plays it every day with the exception of winter when his horn becomes too cold. He is touched when neighbours stop, stand at attention, and salute.

Last fall, CBS sent a camera crew from New York to create a two-minute feature about Brittain and the retiree's fame soared throughout the state of Washington. Brittain received letters from the troops in Afghanistan, and from across the USA. “It was flattering, and humbling,” he said.

After 34 years of marriage, the return to playing has helped him cope with his wife Jan's death to cancer. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through, but I was with her when she died,” Brittain told The News Tribune. The trumpet and close friends kept him busy.

That was 2011. Alone in their home, Brittain kept playing his trumpet. Friends encouraged him. He loves playing the blues, Dixieland, jazz, ballads, big band stuff, and is looking forward to to playing in a community band. There’s a senior's band in Tacoma looking for a third horn, and Brittain plans to test his mettle and join.

Brittain practices up to an hour a day in anticipation of his audition. He can still hit high C.  He warms up with “My Funny Valentine,” and “Satin Doll.” Then, he plays the familiar haunting notes of Taps.