A rousing community salute to Bill Meyer, the volunteer's volunteer
Updated 7:11 am, Monday, March 11, 2013
Bill Meyer, the volunteer's volunteer of Westport, was accorded a civic round of applause Sunday for his many, diverse efforts on behalf of helping worthy causes, both local and regional.
A crowd of hundreds turned out for the testimonial at Branson Hall of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, where Meyer was presented the ceremonial key to the town, as well as numerous other accolades from local community groups and civic initiatives that have benefited from Meyer's help.
Those saluting the 83-year-old Meyer on what was proclaimed "Bill Meyer Day" included young and old, Democrats and Republicans, representatives from 17 different groups, agencies and organizations.
"It's fabulous," said his wife, Carolyn Meyer. "I don't think there's ever been anyone else who's ever had this honor, in all the years I've lived here. But he deserves it."
A 17-year member of the Representative Town Meeting, the lengthy list of Meyer's other community activities includes Saugatuck Congregational Church, the Y's Men of the Westport Weston Family Y, Little League organizer and umpire, mentor, campaign worker, and Native American champion, Meyer has been -- and continues to be -- integral to the community he has called home for 41 years.
"There's only one Westport," he told the crowd in closing remarks. "I love everyone one of you."
But Meyer's many friends, well aware of the honoree's generosity not only with his time but his words as well, helped keep his comments in check by saying so many nice things about him.
"I mean this with all of my heart," former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays told Meyer. "None of us can thank you enough. We love you."
Shays said that Meyer took the candidate and Shays' wife Betsy "under his wing in my first race for Congress in 1987, and in that race this man proved to be so savvy, so energetic, so exuberant, and so committed ... There's just no holding back Bill."
Others concurred, including fellow RTM members, who poked fun at his garrulous side with a short skit illustrating his flamboyance and fervency.
"Bless crazy hats and wise words," said the Rev. Alison Patton of Saugatuck Congregational Church, which Meyer attends.
"I think that it's fabulous we're taking this opportunity to honor a man who's given more to this town than anyone I know," said Steve Axthelm, vice president of softball for Westport Baseball and Softball.
Axthelm, guitar in hand, led a chorus of 30 softball players in a modified rendition of John Fogerty's "Centerfield," with lyrics that included, "Put me in, Bill, I'm ready to play."
"I applaud your leadership, hard work and dedication to the community," Steinberg read.
"You mean the world to me, and a multitude of others," said state Sen. Toni Boucher. "Anyone who needs your help knows you're always there for them. "It's not possible to put into words the admiration people have for you."
"This is a very special day for me," Meyer said at one point during the tributes. "My mother would have been 109 years old today."
"Me and Bill have done a lot together," said Ian Goodman, whom Meyer mentors, listing among their shared activities museum trips. "The great thing about going to a museum with Bill is he always knows more about everything than the people showing us," he said, drawing a large laugh.
Even in his professional life, Meyer made a mark, helping to create the Blackfeet Indian Writing Co., which led to his becoming an honorary member of the Native American tribe in Montana.
"Bill had a vision and a dream when he came to the reservation," said Tribal Chief Ok-I-tooo-Pi. "He created jobs."
"Thank you for creating that opportunities for us to prove to ourselves and the world that dreams can be accomplished if you want them bad enough," he told Meyer, presenting him with a ceremonial headdress.
And the three members of the Board of Selectmen presented Meyer with the ceremonial key to the town -- the first of its kind.
"Westport loves Bill," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. "You don't have to say any more than that."