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Tim Blagg

Blagg: Someone you could count on

An old friend of mine died the other day.

I don’t make it a practice to write about these sad but inevitable events but I think Bill White deserves special mention.

Bill, who many knew through his years as vice president of Wilson’s Department Store or his connections to Northfield Mount Hermon, stands out in my mind as one of those special, special people without whom we’d be lost.

You see, Bill showed up.

When we needed someone to cook the sausages at our church’s Saturday pancake breakfasts, Bill showed up. When the church needed a wall painted, or a bush trimmed, or a lawn mowed, Bill showed up.

When the YMCA was looking for someone to help with its annual fund drive, or a drive was needed to take kids around to pick up bottles for their deposits, or ... you get my drift.

Bill showed up.

He was one of those invaluable people, the heart of any nonprofit, or charity, or church, or town, or community, who can be counted on to work doggedly at a project until it’s done.

And to show up, when needed, and stay until the job is done.

In fact, his whole family is like that. Marilyn, his wife of 56 years, is another. No event at Second Church in Greenfield would be complete unless Marilyn was there, setting out chairs, clucking over flower arrangements, preparing food or doing a host of other things to make the affair run smoothly. And the kids and the grandkids are like that, too.

I grew up appreciating folks like the Whites.

I vividly remember, back when I was a teen, working with my dad building sets for his and my mom’s local community theater group. There would be the play selection committee, then the appointment of a director and at least the lead actors.

Then there would be a general discussion of the sets needed, referring, of course, to the script stage directions.

Quite often, there would be some would-be Broadway type who would speak up about the vital need for, say, a spiral staircase. Or a set of French doors opening onto a balcony with a cityscape.

“Absolutely essential!” the budding producer would proclaim. “Can’t do without it!”

“OK,” my dad would reply. “We start building next Tuesday at 7 in the workshop ... see you there and you can show us what you need.”

That next Tuesday, my dad would show up, and I would be there, and perhaps one or two of his fellow diehards. No faux impressario.

So my dad would roll his eyes, look around, and say, “OK, let’s dust off that staircase we used in ‘Hello Dolly’ and give it a fresh coat of paint ... that oughta do just fine. ‘Florenz Ziegfeld’s’ just going to have to make do.”

Dad and his set-building buddies would have liked Bill White. He was their kind of guy.

In my years working with volunteer organizations, I’ve come to treasure the Bill Whites of our community.

When a river or a park or a playground needs cleaning up, they come and get dirty.

When furniture needs to be rearranged to accommodate changes, they bring their work gloves.

And, when money needs to be raised, they knock on doors, make phone calls — and quietly often dig deep in scarce resources to help.

We are a nation of volunteers, and I’ve always contended that we lead the world in that area. More Americans spend more time helping more of their fellow citizens than any other country — by a wide margin.

It’s one of those things that make us Americans — and it’s people like Bill White, those that show up, that are the core.

He’ll be missed.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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