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Montrose resident Dan Pumphrey performs taps to an empty Grand View Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

MONTROSE — Daniel Pumphrey walked among the decorated graves of fallen warriors Monday morning soaking in the warm Colorado sun, a flat-finished trumpet tucked under his arm.

Pumphrey normally plays before a crowd on this day, Memorial Day, yet with people told to stay away because of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, he prepared to perform a tribute to the dead anyway.  

“I usually have to practice a few days before because I’m so afraid of cracking a note,” he said with a smile.

Dan Pumphrey plays taps every Memorial and Veterans day at Grand View Cemetery in Montrose. This year, he was alone. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

White marble stones displaying the names of soldiers, some dating back to the Civil War, are decorated with American flags in some of the 16 public cemeteries in Montrose County. Pumphrey shows up, without notice, to play taps each Memorial Day and Veterans Day at Grand View Cemetery, located on a mesa overlooking the city of Montrose.

“It’s so beautiful out here,” Pumphrey said as the wind pushed flags into motion. “I just figured there would be a service here today.”

Elsewhere in the cemetery family members brought soap and water to clean graves, and bouquets of flowers to leave with love. Then, in the shade of a globe willow tree, Pumphrey performed taps.

Nearby, family and relatives of Col. James Louis Beard, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 84, paused to remove their hats and listen. The family had brought fresh flowers to his grave — along with playful grandchildren.

Beard had been a member of the U.S. Army Reserves Special Forces. His gravestone is the newest in he cemetery’s area dedicated to fallen service members.

The family members thanked Pumphrey as they left Grandview, the young children prompting him to play a few more notes on his horn.

Relatives of service members walk around the section of Grand View Cemetery in Montrose devoted to veterans, on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Then, right at 11 a.m., when in a normal year the annual Memorial Day service at Grand View would begin, Pumphrey performed taps again, this time over the headstones, a few bystanders watching from the shade. 

After he concluded the final note, an elderly woman walked by and gifted Pumphrey with a soft “thank you.”

“It was so beautiful to hear you play,” she said.

William Woody is a photojournalist based in Colorado, documenting everything Western Slope. Email: Twitter: @wwoodyCO