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Subject: Jazz Trombonist Harold Betters

Dies at 92
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Date Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 03:42:00am


Known as “Mr. Trombone,” Western Pennsylvania native Harold Betters succeeded on the world stage, but he always called Connellsville home.

It was in Connellsville where Betters died peacefully Sunday, surrounded by family, according to his daughter. He was 92.

Betters, well known for his command of the trombone, was for decades a household name in the region.

During a long career that began with gigs with his brothers at a family-owned bar and grill in Fayette County, he played with musical greats including Ray Charles, Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong, “Slide” Hampton and Ramsey Lewis. He performed on “The Merv Griffin Show,” “The Tonight Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.”

His daughter, Cheryl Betters Kelly of Connellsville, said her father was a homebody. People always quizzed him about why he didn’t take his enormous talent on the road, she said, but Betters never regretted staying home.

“It was very important to dad to have a family life,” Kelly said. “We ate dinner together, had our holidays together, and that’s what he enjoyed and the way he wanted it.”

“I can personally tell you he was the greatest dad ever,” she said.

After formal music training at Ithaca College and the Brooklyn Conservatory, Betters was drafted in 1950.

He played in the 308th Army Band for two years, and that’s where Betters refined his playing.

“You don’t really get to know it until you get out in the streets. I can tell a guy that’s knowledgeable about music, but he doesn’t feel it. When you hear stuff like that, you should feel it, and know how to move,” he said in a 2005 Tribune-Review article.

Betters recorded more than two dozen albums and CDs and marked more than half a century of entertaining audiences with his jazz.

“I can tell you he was a true gentleman and a true innovator. He was a great ambassador of music and an ambassador for this region his entire life,” said Rod Booker, a retired Westmoreland County Community College music professor who was music director at Hempfield Area School District for more than 25 years.

Booker sat in with Betters on a few occasions, playing percussion, “and it was an honor.”

“He will definitely be missed,” Booker said.

Connellsville Mayor Greg Lincoln said the city honored Betters by naming the East Park band shell in his honor.

“Here was a world-renowned musician who always called Connellsville home. He loved it here,” Lincoln said.

Betters was born March 21, 1928, the son of the late George R. and Lela Bell Betters.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Marjorie Bunny Timm Betters. The were married for 54 years.

He is survived by two sons, Kevin, of Connellsville, and Curtis of West Mifflin, his daughter, Cheryl; a sister, Vera Miner of Atlanta, Ga., two granddaughters, four grandsons, and a niece, Jennifer Redman of Dickerson Run.

The family announced their father’s death on Facebook Monday.

“He had a very happy and loving life, and we were blessed to have him 92½ years. He will now be at peace with my mom Bunny Timm Betters. … He was my rock, my friend and my hero … and I loved him more than life.”

Due to covid-19, there will be no viewing/funeral service. Arrangements are being handled by the Vito Martucci Funeral home in Connellsville. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Kevin Betters, 407 E. Francis Avenue, Connellsville, Pa., 15425.

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