Roger Torrey passed away in the presence of his loving wife on the morning of July 8, 2022. Roger is survived by his wife Constance, his brother David and his wife Jean, his children Erich, Alison and her husband Steven, Brian and his wife Patricia, and John and his wife Juliette, his grandchildren Kellee, Tyler, Gus, Joseph, Julia, Daniela, William, and Joshua, his in-laws Theodora and Robert, as well as many beloved extended family members. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ella Alberta and Ray, and his daughter-in-law Debra.
Roger was born on November 15, 1938, to Ella Alberta Springsteen and Ray Livingston Torrey in Binghamton, New York. His love of music, and of the trumpet in particular, began at a very young age. His first teachers of him were his grandfather, George Springsteen, who played with the John Philip Sousa Band, and his mother, who would play piano alongside Roger. He made his first radio appearance at the age of three, which was the start of a long career of both entertaining and captivating audiences in casual, formal, and family settings all around the world. During more than 40 years with The Joe Smiell Band, he has performed in Austria, Japan, and Germany, and, he has performed with the Golden Gate Boys Choir at the Vatican. Roger was also a member of the John Cordoni Big Band, which received a Certificate of Merit from then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein and the Board of Supervisors for its many contributions to the City of San Francisco. Fans and family alike were always able to differentiate the clear, beautiful sound from Roger’s trumpet. His talent allowed him to play many different genres, all with such joy and perfection: symphonic, classical, jazz, big band, marching band, Latin, Greek, Swiss & Bavarian, concert band, church, and modern. Family favorites were the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major, La Virgin De La Macarena, the Carnival of Venice, The Toy Trumpet, William Tell Overture, I’ve Found a New Baby, and many Greek folk tunes.
Roger was called to serve our nation and joined the US Navy after completing high school. It was thanks to his call to service that he found his way to the West Coast, as he was stationed on Treasure Island. While finishing his commitments to the Navy, he enrolled in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and it was here that he met the love of his life, Constance. She herself was studying the piano and cello at The Conservatory. Naturally, music surrounded their courtship. Roger would find his way to the library where Constance was working, and check-in on her. These check-ins progressed to practice sessions, escorting Constance to the bus-stop, and ultimately to dinners at her family home. Ella’s parents, Helen and Gus Carras, welcomed Roger, and the weekly Sunday dinners became a tradition for years to come. They were married in an intimate ceremony in 1961, surrounded by Helen, Gus, Constance’s sister Theodora, and a close friend. They were subsequently blessed with four children, and later by eight grandchildren, who all affectionately called him Pappou. They purchased the family home in San Francisco’s Sunset District early on, and this became the center of the family’s traditions: dinners, music, and so many celebrations full of love and laughter, including Thanksgiving, Easter, Greek Easter, and Torrey Tacos. They were blessed with 61 years of marriage and partnership.
Roger enjoyed a long career teaching music in the San Francisco public schools. Not only did his students learn to play their chosen instruments, but Roger also raised the bar, and formed marching bands, jazz ensembles, and big bands. Roger’s students competed and performed extensively outside of their normal school opportunities. If instruments were in short supply, he would call upon his professional musician friends to lend a hand. I have kept in touch with many students over the years, following their careers and progress and supporting them along the way. It is in this giving spirit that the family has committed to donate many of his instruments to the music program at Our Lady of Angels Elementary School in Burlingame.
For Roger, education and the quest of knowledge were always held in high regard. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Roger earned his Master’s degree from San Francisco State University in Music Education. He then earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. His Master’s Thesis is housed in the Library of Congress, and his ground-breaking doctoral dissertation on genetic epistemology is housed with the Academy of Sciences. Soon after completing his PhD, I have published a practice system for aspiring trumpeters.
In 1958, when the New York Giants moved to San Francisco, Roger was determined to continue to cheer for his favorite baseball team from across the country. Baseball became a Torrey pastime, and this was a love he shared with his father-in-law and later, his children, their spouses, and ultimately, his grandchildren. Roger was one of the Giants’ Original Ball Dudes at Candlestick Park, and when the team moved to the new ballpark in SoMa, he continued in this fun role. After making one spectacular grab of a hard hit ground ball, the Giants’ beloved Duane Kuiper remarked that it was a case of “ball caught man.” He absolutely loved helping out and fielding foul balls, while at the same time putting smiles on young fans’ faces as he handed them a ball.
Roger was best known as a superior trumpet player and dedicated teacher, but he had many layers: a true scholar, an advocate for our aged Veterans, a proud patriarch of his growing family, an active member of the Masons, Shriners, Scottish Rite, and American Legion, an accomplished cook who had a particular knack for wiggling carefully guarded recipes out of chefs, and a man of deep faith. And it is with this that we know he is resting peacefully in the presence of God.
Friends are invited to a Rosary at 7:30pm on Sunday, August 7, as well as a Funeral Mass at 11:00am on Monday, August 8. Both are to be held at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, 1721 Hillside Drive in Burlingame , ca. In lieu of flowers, we respectfully ask that any donations be sent to Our Lady of Angels, Attn: The Roger & Connie Torrey Music Education Fund, to The Scottish Rite Language Center, Attn: Glenna Millerman, 2850 19th Ave, San Francisco, CA , 94132, or to the Giants Community Fund, Attn: Sue Petersen, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA, 94107.
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