WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 21, 2014, 08:30 PM

Area polka musician dies at 73

Fargo, N.D. (WDAY TV) -When hundreds of family and friends gather Friday for the funeral of "Wee Willie", there will be the sound of polkas and concertinas.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

When hundreds of family and friends gather Friday for the funeral of "Wee Willie", there will be the sound of polkas and concertinas.

It will be a day of remembering one of this region's great "Old Time Music" performers.

Bill Makovsky died Sunday at the age of 73.

His family and band members tell the story of the boy who was born to play the concertina, and did it well for more than a half century.

His son Mike Makovsky tries to figure out who is in all these pictures.

There are those pictures this family clings to. Wee Willie as a boy. Already with a concertina in hand, alongside his father, also a musician shortly after World War Two.

Mike Makovsky: “Remembering what a good person he was and how many people he touched.”

Today, the family of Wee Willie prepared for Friday's funeral to bring Bill Makovsky home to Czech country. Silver Lake, Minn. It will be a polka party celebration.

For a man who loved playing music so much, he worked full time and then hit the road at night and weekends with his Wee Willie Band.

Wee Willie played countless ballrooms all over the upper Midwest.

Mike Makovsky: “We thought it was no big deal.”

Roger Kosobud, member of Wee Willie band: “There were several years we were 250 bookings a year.”

Mike Makovsky: “To us, Dad was Dad.”

Austria, Germany. A Minnesota Music Hall of Fame member, Minnesota Band of the Year A producer of 22 Polka Albums

Today, his children proudly play his albums. They knew him as Dad.

They joke now about using his record albums to slide down the stairs. Today, they recall a loving man. Nine kids in a blended family who loved him.

His wife Ann Remembers what Wee Willie had plastered on his trailer he pulled to his events.

Ann Makovsky: “He said Smiles are free.”

And Wee Willie's stamina for recording and performing is unmatched. His first album recorded in 1969. His last, nine months ago.

Mike Makovsky: “That was his desire and passion.”

Over the years, Wee Willie would play countless ballrooms across Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin. Most have shut their doors, but the concertina player who played by ear, will be remembered not only for his fast fingers and quick wit, but as the guy in the clever cap, who sang and played his way to heaven. One polka at a time.

Boulger Funeral Home will host a prayer service tomorrow night at 6:30.

His funeral will be Friday in Silver Lake, Minn.