PAXTON – Before Bob Pence died, he knew exactly how he wanted to be buried – with jazz playing in the background.
So when Mr. Pence died on Jan. 11 at the age of 74, Royce Baier of Ford-Baier Funeral Home in Paxton geared up for a New Orleans-style funeral, complete with a Dixieland band and horse-drawn hearse.
Mr. Pence's pallbearers and family followed on foot.
"It meandered through the cemetery," Baier said. "I was in a position to look back at it. ... It was awesome."
Mr. Pence's wife, Donna, said her husband requested the New Orleans-style burial. The couple visited New Orleans several times and attended many jazz festivals.
"He just loved jazz," Donna Pence said. "I know he would've been happy with it. It couldn't have been any better."
Mr. Pence lived in Paxton but owned Rantoul Drugs for 45 years, retiring in 1997.
He was honored as the Rantoul Citizen of the Year in 1983.
Baier said he spoke with Tim Hess, the band director at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, about putting together a jazz band.
Hess pulled out four of his high school brass players for the funeral. He said his students had an advantage because their marching band show this fall had a New Orleans theme.
"We just played a New Orleans style of 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee,'" Hess said. "The kids were already very familiar with the style."
And on a frigid January afternoon, the band played all the way to the grave site. Just minutes after they stopped, their trumpet valves were frozen.
Donna Pence said she was glad to fulfill her husband's final wishes with the special touches for the burial.
"It felt like it was what he'd want," she said.