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2016-2017 Hall of Fame Inductees

Ralph Bolls

Ralph Bolls was born in Edinburg, Texas in 1932.  He graduated from Edinburg High School in 1950 where he was a member of the band under the direction of Ralph Burford.  He attended Sam Houston State University for one year and then transferred to Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee where he received his Bachelors and Masters degrees.  He served his military duty as a member of the US Army band at Fort Chaffee Arkansas.

Ralph started his teaching career as a band director in Tennessee for one year, then returned to the Valley as an assistant director to L.M. Snavely at McAllen High School.  Ralph taught at several schools in McAllen including beginners, Jr. High and High School.  Many of his students reached the All-State level and he was regarded by many as an outstanding Clarinet and Percussion teacher.  He retired in 1990.

Ralph is married to Mary Aida Bolls, who is a retired Pharmacist.  Their son Ronnie and his wife Sylvia live in Maryland with their children Sylvia Alexandra and Ronald Erwin Bolls.  Ronnie is a supervisor with the US Marshall service in Washington D.C.

Byron Engle

Byron was born in Austin, TX March 1, 1946 to Norma Kasch Engle & George M. Engle lll. In 1949, the family moved to Midland, TX, as his father worked for Shell Oil Co. and there was an oil boom in West Texas at the time. His mother had to stay at home to care for Byron and his baby sister, Norma Nelle (Kitten). Since there was no housing immediately available, the family had to wait until a house was built for them to move into. In the meantime, the family (along with many others) had to live in a converted 3-story barracks at what is now the Midland-Odessa International Airport (it was a gunnery base during WW2) for about 6-7 months. While living there, Byron happened to look out the window and saw a large airplane and the die was set; he became a “wing nut” from then on.

In the fall of 1951, his father contracted Polio and was hospitalized for about 1 ½ years before coming home to be cared for by a hired caretaker. March 16, 1954 George Engle died in his sleep from complications of Polio, leaving his mother to earn the living and pay for a full time helper to care for the 2 children and the house.

Byron enrolled in the band program at the end of his 6th grade year attempting to play the trombone (he wasn’t very good). After approximately 10-12 weeks, it was decided that he needed braces and he asked the band director (Donald A. Swaim) if he could switch to tuba. Since there was no tuba player in the band, the director was delighted. A few days/weeks of after school tutelage helped and his performance improved so much that he (later) decided to become a band director. January 2, 1963 was a sad day for the whole city of Midland; the much loved, charismatic, high school band director committed suicide. No reason was found, but the inspiration had taken hold the previous fall; Byron was going to become a band director.

After graduation, Byron enrolled at North Texas State University in Denton, TX in the fall of 1964. In 1966, he enrolled in Cooke County Jr. College in Gainsville, TX and in the fall of 1967, received an induction notice from Uncle Sam to help with the conflict in Southeast Asia. Not wanting to become cannon fodder, he enlisted and was given his choice of occupation while under the employment of the U.S. Army. After basic combat training at Fort Polk, LA, he was sent to the U.S. Armed Forces School of Music in Little Creek, VA for 6 months of intensive training. He graduated from the school at a professional level of playing and was sent to active duty at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio performing with the 4th Army Band, finishing his time in service there. While in San Antonio, he employed the G.I. Bill for advanced flight training (he had earned his private pilot’s license while at North Texas), acquiring a commercial pilot’s license and a multi-engine rating.

After leaving the employ of Uncle Sam, he reenrolled at North Texas, finishing in the spring of 1973. One of the courses he took was instrument repair under the tutelage of master craftsman, Bob Kilpatrick. Little did he know that was also a life-altering decision. His first teaching job was as middle school/assistant high school band director and assistant choir director for Lancaster ISD, just South of Dallas. While teaching in Lancaster, he married Betty, a lovely woman from Denton and they are enjoying their 43rd year of marriage. His stepson, Chris is married, living in Denton and with his wife, has given them a grandson who also loves to fly in small airplanes in the summers while visiting in Harlingen.

After 2 years, a move was made to Smithville, a small town Southeast of Austin as elementary, junior high and high school band director for the next 2 years. After a successful tenure, he gained employment with the Lyford CISD, under the tutelage of Mr. W. R. Snavely as junior high/assistant high school band director. While employed at Lyford, he used the G.I. bill again to acquire an instrument rating, enabling him to fly in cloudy weather. Mr. Snavely recognized his ability for instrument repair and helped set up a small shop in a practice/storage room in the band hall. When Bledsoe Music Co. in Harlingen called, Mr. Snavely answered the phone and gave the call to Byron. They needed an instrument repairman and the cast was set from then on. Byron found that working with his hands was therapeutic and helped relieve the stresses of the day while in his shop.  When Mr. Snavely left for employment in La Feria, Byron stayed in Lyford under the high school direction of Raul Gonzalez and 2 years later, Danny Solis. In 1984, Byron left Lyford to teach at the Port Isabel Junior High and as high school assistant under Joe Espinoza. After 1 year in P.I., Danny Solis called and needed help at the South San Antonio West Campus High School for an assistant director. The job was great and so were the students, but the crowds and traffic were terrible, so when the junior high director’s job in La Feria opened (again, under the high school direction of Mr. Snavely), he made the move back to the Rio Grande Valley. After 14 wonderful years as middle school director, he was moved into the head director’s position at the high school. Six successful years later, retirement loomed and in 2006, Byron graduated into retirement (if one could call it that). He continued his repair business and is enjoying his “retirement”. In addition to instrument repair, Byron has several other hobbies (perhaps too many-they can be a distraction), such as motorcycle riding, shooting his pistols & rifles (not hunting) and trying to build a homebuilt airplane (don’t ask). He also enjoys helping other younger directors and gives clinics, advice & does some judging at local pre-contests in the area.

About a year before his retirement, he and Betty bought a lot in an aviation community in the Texas Hill Country, North of Kerrville, built a large hanger with a 1200 square foot apartment inside with the plan to eventually move there after retirement. So far, it has been a resort for vacations, but the plan is still there to move someday when Byron decides to fully retire (if possible). After living in the wonderful Rio Grande Valley for so many years, it will be difficult to leave, especially considering all the friends that have been made over the years.