Gary Marquardt Honors Veterans Through Music

by | May 2024

For Memorial Day, Gary Marquardt will visit two cemeteries in Mound to play at veterans’ graves. “I’ll keep playing until I can’t anymore,” he says.

For Memorial Day, Gary Marquardt will visit two cemeteries in Mound to play at veterans’ graves. “I’ll keep playing until I can’t anymore,” he says. Photos: Chris Emeott

Mound man honors veterans—one note at a time.

If you’ve ever been boating near Casco Point on Lake Minnetonka at sunset, chances are you’ve heard the mournful strains of taps drifting across the water. For years, Mound’s Gary Marquardt had taken to his waterfront deck each night with his bugle to play for those who have proudly served the country. It’s his small way of showing reverence and giving back. “I just love to play,” he says. “It’s not a burden.”

Marquardt’s father and his father-in-law both served in World War II and the South Dakota-born Marquardt fully expected to head to Vietnam after he graduated from college in 1969. Fate would have other plans. While waiting for the call to serve in Vietnam, Marquardt collapsed at work and was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer, which disqualified him from military service.

Instead of beginning his military career, Marquardt pivoted toward business, starting as a salesman before launching his very successful construction document management business. “I am the freaking American dream,” he says.

Marquardt never took for granted his successes in business or life. He is well aware that, while he had the opportunity to get married and have children, others never got the chance to build a life back home after military service. “I keep thinking about the five guys I know on the [memorial] wall in Washington [D.C.],” he says. “I got the best of everything and didn’t have to do anything.”

Perhaps that is why when Marquardt attended the funeral for a friend’s father and saw a man standing behind a tree playing a recording of taps, he couldn’t help but be disappointed. “I thought, ‘Is this the best we can do?’” he says.

On the ride home from the funeral, Marquardt contacted Bugles Across America and offered his services. During the phone call, he acknowledged that he didn’t play the bugle and couldn’t read music. The response he got was, “I won’t tell you not to try.” Try, he did.

Gary Marquardt Playing a Bugle

Marquardt headed to Minnetonka Music in Excelsior where he began lessons with owner Bob Bushnell. “It was very difficult,” he says. “It took me a year.” And while he had the technical aspects of taps down after a year, he still had one big hurdle to overcome: nerves. Marquardt knew that to play taps for military funerals, he couldn’t just play the song. He had to play it well, as if he was honoring one of his own family members. “The idea is to give them a heartbeat behind those 24 notes,” he says.

Marquardt started playing taps on his deck, and people started listening. “At first, it was terrible,” he says. “People called. One neighbor asked, ‘Why don’t you play something you know?’” Marquardt stayed focused, recalling his mother’s advice to never quit. “I played until people clapped,” he says.

When the applause came, Marquardt knew he was ready to audition for Bugles Across America. Today, not only is he one of more than 170 volunteer buglers in Minnesota, but he is also the state director for the organization, ensuring that any eligible request for a bugler at a military funeral gets fulfilled.

Since joining the organization almost a decade ago, Marquardt has played at hundreds of funerals across the state. “It’s the most rewarding thing,” he says. “People come up and hug you afterwards.” Finding an available bugler can sometimes be a challenge, which is when Marquardt usually steps in. “We’re always in need of more buglers,” he says. And the best advertisement for that is his nightly rendition of taps on Lake Minnetonka and the resulting attention that has garnered him in local and nationwide press and from the upwards of 150 boats carrying boaters, who gather just to hear Marquardt play. “It has taken on a life of its own,” he says. “What a wonderful ride.”

Last year, Marquardt and his wife sold their home on Casco Point and moved a few miles northwest to enjoy their retirement from a townhouse with views of Jennings Bay. Despite the move, each night at 6 p.m., Marquardt continues to play taps from his deck during the winter months (aside from when they vacation in Florida) and from the deck of The Shoreline Hotel during boating season. “No two performances are the same,” he says.

Each time he plays, Marquardt thinks of those who have served and the stories he’s heard from them and their family members. “You think about what they went through,” he says. To be able to play and give back, even in the smallest of ways, is an honor for Marquardt.

Bugles Across America

Bugles Across America was founded by Tom Day in 2000 to ensure military funerals included a live rendition of taps by a bugler. The organization currently has more than 4,000 volunteer buglers and covers all 50 states and some overseas locations. Buglers must pass a phone audition and be able to play taps in a manner that honors veterans. People of all ages are eligible to join. For more information, visit or Bugles Across America on Facebook.

Facebook: Taps On Casco Point, Lake Minnetonka


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