June 19, 2024

Holcomb woman pays tribute to father, WWII veteran, with song

(Courtesy of the Beef Empire Days staff)

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Janie Matile’s favorite part of the rodeo is the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

And off and on for the past thirty years, she’s sung it at the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo.

The Holcomb, Kansas woman moved with her husband Chuck to southwest Kansas thirty years ago, and was soon on the rodeo committee. Chuck, a team roper and tie-down roper, and Janie, a barrel racer, began volunteering on the committee.

After their daughter Caitlin was born, and work and family obligations filled up their time, they retired from the committee.

But Janie still sings.

As the youngest of five children of Harry and Ula Theobald, growing up in Yates Center, Kan., the whole family sang. The kids “sang for the weddings and mom and dad sang for the funerals,” she said. Now that she’s older, “I’m singing for the funerals.”

This year, she’ll sing for the rodeo performance on Thursday, May 23, and it will have more significance for her. Her dad, a World War II veteran, passed away on May 5 at the age of 95. He was the biggest reason she loves to sing the national anthem. “I’m steeped in patriotism,” she said. “That comes from my dad and his service.” Based in Sudbury, England during WWII,  he was a tail gunner for B17s and B24s and the last living member of his crew, flying 35 missions. “We were all raised patriotic, and this is one way I can serve, by lending my voice,” Matile said.

Last year, she tried out to sing the national anthem at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. She advanced through the first round of competition, which was decided by the fans with a Facebook contest, but didn’t get through the second round. She’d like to try again. Singing the national anthem at the Wrangler National Finals “is on my bucket list,” she said.

Matile has sung at other rodeos, including the finals for the Kansas Pro Rodeo Association, high school rodeos, and other events. It’s part of being a volunteer on committees. “In a small town, everybody’s on one or two committees,” she said, “and they’re always asking, can you sing for our event? If I have the time, I’m there.”

One of her most memorable moments singing at the rodeo was during a flyover from the Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County, Missouri. Just as she hit the high notes of the song, the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthogs” flew over. “It was way cool.”

This year will be memorable, and bittersweet, too, as she sings one of her favorite songs and her dad is no longer on the earth. But it’s something she loves to do. “When it’s done right, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I love kicking off a rodeo like that. That’s my mission.”

The Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo takes place May 23-25 at 7 pm each night. Tickets range in price from $12 to $20 if purchased in advance, and are available online at www.beefempiredaysrodeo.com.  At the gate, tickets are $4 more per ticket. Ticket outlets include Crazy House, Baker Boots, and Garden City True Value.

For more information, visit the website at www.BeefEmpireDaysRodeo.com.