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Farewell song fitting for Baldwin High School's Shalley

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Regis V. Shalley, 86, passed away peacefully on March 6 at the Celtic Hospice with his family at his side, as music by Antonio Vivaldi, the baroque composer, played. Shalley taught at Baldwin High School for 28 years, conducting the Highlander Choir, Baldwinaires, and boys’ and girls’ glee clubs.

Thirty-six current and former Baldwin High School choir members stood in the back of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church last Thursday and sang for Regis V. Shalley one last time.

The performance of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” was a fitting farewell to Shalley at his funeral Mass, as it was the final song at each of the spring concerts Shalley directed at Baldwin High School.

“He would have liked that,” said Kathleen Peterson, Shalley's daughter. “It's a celebration of his life.”

Shalley, 86, died on March 6 at the Celtic Hospice in Mars. Shalley taught for 28 years at Baldwin High School, where he conducted the Highlander Choir, Baldwinaires and boys and girls glee clubs. He retired in 1981.

Shalley built a legacy in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District that continues through shared stories, reunion performances and musical traditions.

There even is a campaign to name the high school's performing arts center after him.

“His life was his career. He motivated people to do their best,” said Dennis Peterson, Shalley's son-in-law. “There will be children who will hear stories from their grandparents, who will say, ‘I knew that man' ... so his legacy will continue on.”

Shalley's love of music was lifelong. He played the trumpet in and conducted dance bands with the Army Air Corps Special Services while he was in the military during World War II. Afterward, he attended Duquesne University's school of music, where he met his wife, Antoinette. He later received his doctorate in musical arts at the University of Cincinnati.

“He was a brilliant musician,” Kathleen Peterson said about her father.

Peterson said she recalled a childhood of dancing in the family living room to Shalley's record collection; Antoinette Shalley said she and her husband enjoyed the Pittsburgh music scene as patrons of the opera, pops and orchestra performances.

“It was great — really fun growing up with all that music,” Kathleen Peterson said.

Dennis Peterson said he remembers Shalley's students stopping by the house to sing Christmas carols; Dr. Ann Shalley Collins said her father would see former students and immediately know their names and when they graduated.

Chris Young and James Nowalk, both 1970 Baldwin High School graduates and choir members, coordinated the performance at Shalley's funeral Mass. They wanted it to resemble Shalley's Christmas concerts, where choir alumni would come up onto the stage to perform “The Little Drummer Boy” with the students, Nowalk said.

“It's the appropriate way to give our thanks to what he gave to us,” said Nowalk, who also serves as the mayor of Whitehall.

Young and Nowalk said Shalley was a perfectionist, who always strived to teach his students how to sing properly.

“His enthusiasm was contagious among his students,” Nowalk said. “There was something about the way that he taught. Everybody respected him.”

Nowalk and Young also serve on the board for the Baldwin-Whitehall Friends of the Theater Arts, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for the district's drama clubs. Several years ago, the group started a fundraising campaign for an orchestra pit in the high school's performing arts center that would be named after Shalley.

The group already has donated $35,000 toward the orchestra pit, so, Nowalk said, he is determined to ramp up the Rally for Shalley campaign and make it happen.

For more information on the Baldwin-Whitehall Friends of the Theater Arts, go to http://bwfta.org/. For more information on the Rally for Shalley campaign, go to http://www.rallyforshalley.org/.

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at lvanwert@tribweb.com.

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