MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — He was a polka musician that performed around Minnesota and entertained national television audiences for more than half a century until his death last month.
In Hutchinson on Sunday, the people who love him planned to gather for a special — and very large — memorial celebration.
Minnesota music hall-of-famer Wally Pikal, renowned for playing up to three trumpets at the same time and while jumping up and down on a pogo stick, died at the age of 90 on March 2. The outpouring was overwhelming for the long-time co-host of his radio show, which was known for 52 years as the Pikal Patch.
“I had more letters, emails, correspondence than I could get on the air,” said KDUZ operations manager John Mons, who was part of the Pikal Patch for nearly four decades and continued the program for nearly a month after Wally’s death. “It was 300 who responded almost immediately. That took up three weeks, and we pulled out one of his old shows as kind of a memory and said goodbye to a good friend.”
So many showed their love for Wally that his family decided to hold Sunday’s memorial inside the commercial building at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.
“The family wanted to make sure that everyone was welcome,” Mons said. “Just a time to visit with family and friends, a short memorial service, and as I understand it, maybe a little music.”
Or maybe a lot of music.
“Some of Wally’s musician friends are going to get together and give him a proper send-off,” Mons said.
Pikal began playing professionally in 1944 as a teenager, joining the Jerry Dostal Band while a senior at Brownton High School. Forming his own band in the early 1960s, he played for many people’s weddings, and later for their anniversary parties.
“He’s an icon, he’s a legend, he’s one-of-a-kind,” Mons said. “He’s a type of guy that, when you met him, you felt like you knew him all your life. He had this contagious laugh that everyone loved, and he just stuck in your mind.”
Mons believes that famous laugh would be heard today if Wally Pikal was around to see how he touched so many people’s lives with his polka music.
“He would just be laughing away, and saying ‘This is a good time.’ And then he’d start laughing,” Mons said.
For more information on the memorial service, click here. There’s an open house at 1 p.m. and a memorial service from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.