Gifted piper’s support lives on
Photos on Flickr
The trip to Scotland to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships this Saturday felt a little longer for one of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band’s most stalwart pipers.
In May, Derek Milloy’s wife Darleen, a former member of the SFU band and a solo champion piper, passed away after a 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis (MS). Her support – and memory – lives on as he readies for his 23rd Worlds.
The pair met in 1988 after Milloy, only 18, left Minnesota to attend SFU and play with the SFU band. A committed young piper, he had also considered Scotland’s St. Andrews University, but knew he made the right pick when he met Darleen.
“I knew two things about her; that she was perfect – I wanted to meet somebody just like her – and I didn’t have a chance. Fortunately I was right about one and not the other. It took me awhile to figure that out. Thankfully she was patient.
“As it turned out, I was a very lucky guy.”
Darleen had played with the SFU band for a decade and was diagnosed with MS shortly before they were engaged. They waited to marry until Derek finished his degree – a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours in philosophy – and tied the knot the day after his Convocation ceremony.
Her symptoms were minor at first and the couple hoped for the best. But the disease worsened and by1993 she was no longer able to play.
“Darleen was an extremely talented piper, much more than I was, and when she could no longer play, she did everything she could to stay active in the community and help me,” says Milloy, a teacher at Burnaby’s Douglas Road elementary school, who graduated with a Master’s degree in education from SFU in June.
Darlene had also attended SFU and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in economics. She worked as an accountant and grew to be highly regarded as one of B.C.’s most talented young pipers.
Considered an up-and-coming pro piper on the solo scene both in B.C. and in Scotland, she won the B.C. Pipers’ MacCrimmon Cairn and the Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting in Scotland in 1987.
Darleen travelled to the Worlds with Derek in 1992 and 1997 but the latter trip proved difficult. She remained committed to his involvement and encouraged his travels. “When I asked her, ‘what can I bring you back?’” recalls Milloy, “she’d say ‘two trophies and a banner please.’
“Over all the years the greatest thing to me was her absolutely positive attitude, that made everything easy, and most of time we forgot she had MS.
“There were times of frustration, when new symptoms came along, but we just accepted things. We didn’t spend all of our energy trying to make life better. We spent our energy having our life.”
Milloy says the piping community, along with his school, family and friends have been stellar in helping him through the past few months. Gearing up for the Worlds this Saturday is helping him stay focused and positive. “No matter how we finish, I know we’ll do fine, because we’ll play well,” he says. “And that’s what Darleen would have wanted.”