By Chris Rourke
For the better part of a century, music has been the lifeblood of John Kincaid. The Western State Colorado university professor emeritus has devoted his life to uniting people through melody and sound, and the legacy that he will leave behind is forever etched on the concert venue at Western’s Quigley Hall that bears his name.
Kincaid – now 96 – still resides in Gunnison. His kind blue eyes sparkled as he retold stories from his past recently. His hands are strong and his fingers straight, fortified by decades of playing cornet and other instruments. His words came slowly, but his mind is still sharp and clear.
Kincaid spent his childhood years in La Veta, Colorado. Through music, he found his way out of his small town and landed at Western State Colorado University. But as many who were a part of the Greatest Generation, Kincaid’s life took a turn with the outbreak of World War II. Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and Kincaid – a junior at Western studying music – enlisted in the U.S. Marines.
As a member of the third division, Kincaid was not only a stretcher bearer in an assault battalion, but a bandsman whose job was to provide a musical backdrop and cadence to the military action. He saw first-hand the Stars and Stripes raised atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He still vividly remembers his time spent in fox holes – the sounds that surrounded him – and the arms he bore. He described perhaps his finest hour of service, which came during his departure after two and a half months. “I was one of the last to leave,” said Kincaid. “I stood there and played taps over the graves of those who had been lost.”