Tacoma man’s heirloom trumpet stolen

The year ended on a bit of a sour note for musician Bob O’Neal, 76 of Tacoma.

Late last month, someone entered O’Neal’s van, which was parked outside his house in the 2100 block of North Union Avenue, and stole a trumpet he’d left in the back.

It was no ordinary instrument, at least not to O’Neal.

His uncle had given him the 1927 King Silvertone 62 years ago, and it was the trumpet on which O’Neal played taps and other songs at the funerals of military veterans across the Puget Sound region for the past six years.

“It has a special sound,” said O’Neal, himself an Army veteran of 21 years.

The trumpet remained missing Wednesday, despite O’Neal’s report to police and a Facebook campaign spreading word of its theft.

“The police said there’s not much they can do,” O’Neal said Wednesday.

The thief struck two days before Christmas.

O’Neal had been out in his neighborhood, playing carols for friends and neighbors, when he decided to take a break about 1 p.m.

He parked his van in front of his house and went inside. He left his trumpet and music stand in the back.

O’Neal said he thought he’d pushed the “door lock” button on his key fob, but maybe he forgot or pushed the wrong button by mistake.

“I don’t like to hear the (van’s) horn, so I don’t push the button twice,” he said. “I’ll be pressing it twice from now on.”

O’Neal said he returned to the van about three hours later and noticed his glove box was open and that some items were strewn across the front seat.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, someone’s been in my car,’” he said.

With a feeling of dread, he walked around to the back of the van and opened the door.

The trumpet was gone.

O’Neal has beaten himself up for not taking the instrument inside with him during his break or at least making sure his van’s doors were locked.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed about it,” he said. “It was a mistake.”

But O’Neal said he’s buoyed by the support he’s gotten from relatives, friends and fellow musicians since news of the theft made its way through his social circles.

A bugler he knows has lent him a replacement trumpet so that he can continue his work with Bugles Across America, performing at funerals at Tahoma National Cemetery and other locations, he said.

“I feel so supported by everyone, the pain and sadness has been dulled over losing my trumpet,” O’Neal said. “And you know, I really have a feeling I’m going to get it back.”