• AMERIGO "RIGGIE" "ROCKETS" LAU...

AMERIGO "RIGGIE" "ROCKETS" LAUS
Age 93, on Monday, June 24, 2019, Amerigo "Riggie" "Rockets" Laus passed away from pneumonia. He was born to Italian immigrant parents in Cheat Haven, PA, the youngest boy of seven surviving children. At the age of 13, his older brother Dan gave him a trumpet and showed him how to play. He took it from there and went on to become a national champion. In 1939, the family moved to Penn Hills, where he joined the high school band and orchestra. At 16, when he was a junior, he joined the local dance band "TopHatters" and played in bars and taverns. He would walk five miles to rehearsals and get rides to performances. His senior year he was appointed the Student Director and trumpet soloist. In 1943, he graduated from Penn Hills High at the age of 17. The following year, he enlisted in the Navy. He was assigned to the S.S. Sanborn troop transport as a Machinist's Mate and the ship's bugler and had to teach himself to play it. He participated in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns. He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946 and from the reserves in 1954. From 1946-48 he performed with the Universal Community Concert Dance Band, the Kittaning VFW Marching Band, and the New Kensington VFW Marching Band. In 1948, he heard about the Pittsburgh Rockets Drum and Bugle Corps, checked them out and stayed for the next 25 years. Practicing on the bugle with a single valve and tuning slide, he came up with new ways to play higher and lower notes that others could not. Consequently, from 1956-64 he won 14 consecutive National first place titles in the individual soprano competitions. This feat has never been matched. Some of the music he arranged and played included "Carnival of Venice," "Granada," "Stardust," and "Hora Staccato." For his final competition, he arranged and played "Flight of the Bumblebee," retiring from individual competitions undefeated. Over the years, he was an instructor for the Tarentum Red Knights Fireman Parade Corps, the Pittsburgh Rockets, the Meadville Thunderbirds (renamed Erie Thunderbirds), the Penn Hills Quasars, the Sharpsburg Cadets, the All Girls Perryville Cadets, the General Butler Vagabonds, and the Steel City Ambassadors. Little did he know that some of his students would go on to become National Champions, professional musicians, and band directors. Riggie has been inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Buglers Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Drum and Bugle Corps Hall of Fame, the Buglers Hall of Fame, and the Penn Hills Arts and Music Hall of Fame. He was a lifelong member of the American Legion Post 351 and played Taps for the Korean War Veterans Association. He was a member of Mother of Good Council Church, a lector, choir member, Eucharistic Minister, and trumpet accompanist. He drove a school bus for the Penn Hills School District for 22 years, where the children called him "Rockets," because he always wore his Pittsburgh Rockets jacket. He kept every card, picture, ornament, or art work that the children gave him for Christmas, Valentine's, anniversaries, and his retirement. He taught the kindergarteners silly songs that they would sing at the top of their lungs on the way to and from school, much to the dismay of the teachers and principals. In 2003, he joined and performed with the Steel City Alumni Corps and later the Trafford Community Band until he was 90. At the age of 88 he joined the Hebron Senior Bowling League and retired from that at 92. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Florine (Berardino) Laus; his daughters, Mary Jo (William) Markiewicz and Celeste Laus; two grandsons, A.J. and Christian Markiewicz; sisters, Thelma Ruggiero (Aspinwall) and Rosie Brooke (California); and sister-in-law, Lillian Laus (California); and beloved relatives and friends. Preceding him in death, Daniel and Antoinette Laus, Jenny and William Gillette, Anthony Laus, and Gene and Mary Laus. Friends received Wednesday 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. and Thursday 2-9 p.m. at SOXMAN FUNERAL HOMES, LTD./ROTH CHAPEL, 7450 Saltsburg Road (at Universal Road), Penn Hills. Mass of Christian Burial Friday 10 a.m. in St. Charles Lwanga Parish, Mother of Good Counsel Church. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
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PostedJune 26, 2019