Beverly Pruett and her daughter Linita drove from their home in Forest City on Monday, Dec. 20, to Cullowhee to watch the WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band at its last rehearsal before traveling to California to participate in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Bandfest and Rose Parade. Pruett’s son Billy Epley was a member of the band who played snare drum when he died in a traffic accident in 2005. One of the five stars on the flag the band will carry in the parade honors him.
“The band is the reason he came to this school,” said Pruett. Although there were colleges closer to home, Epley told her that “‘They don’t have a band like Western.'”
Epley, who started to play drums in sixth grade, practiced and practiced in order to make the drumline and play snare drum at WCU. Pruett said she would come to the games to watch when he was at WCU, and she still comes today because they meant so much to her son.
“I’m so proud of them (the band members),” said Pruett. “I just wish Billy was here to still be a part of it.”
The band will honor Epley in the 2011 Rose Parade as well as four other students who died while they were members of the band by carrying a flag. Stars on the flag represent Epley, Melanie Thompson, Megan Hayes, Mandy Buchanan and Daniel Ledford.