More than 300 people overflowed Branson Hall at Christ and Holy Trinity Church Sunday afternoon to celebrate Bill Meyer Day.
State Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle along with Senators Toni Boucher and John McKinney opened the great afternoon of “Thank Yous” reading a state proclamation announcing the day as Bill Meyer Day. Westport Selectmen Gordon Joseloff, Shelly Kassen and Charlie Haberstroh followed, presenting him with a key to the town and reading another proclamation that also named the day Bill Meyer Day in Westport, a thank you for what he has contributed in the more than 40 years he has lived here.
Ninety minutes later former Representative Chris Shays and his wife Betsi, dear friends of Bill’s, closed the celebration with a warm speech, calling him a “luminary,” and thanking Bill for getting to the station before he did and staying longer, and for knowing every supermarket in the district.
In between, and ushered on by emcees Charlie Haberstroh and Arlo Ellison, he was celebrated, serenaded and thanked for his good works.
Steve Axthelm and Jeff White began, recognizing him for what he did for Little League softball and baseball. Nearly every girl who grew up in Westport in the last 30 years knows Umpire Bill. Far fewer know him as the Commissioner who quadrupled the size of the league.
Mildred Bunche, President of Y’s Women, and four other Y’s Women offered fellow member Carolyn Meyer a song they wrote and presented her with a lovely floral bouquet.
Y’s Men President Roy McKay and “postman” Mario Sa’Cuto delivered him an oversized greeting card signed by more than 100 of his fellow Y’s Men. McKay did a bit of math, and concluded that Bill is responsible for about two-thirds of the group’s members.
Ian Goodman, a Staples sophomore and Bill’s mentee for five years, thanked him for everything, and ended telling him “I love you” and giving him big hug.
Cousin Dave Brown and Bob Lasprogato, a Son of the Revolution, gave the audience a short intro to Bill’s roots. He is a descendant of Thomas Hooker, a Congregationalist minister who arrived in Boston in 1633. Three years later he founded what is today Hartford and the Connecticut Colony. He offered a sermon that led to the writing of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the country’s first written constitution.
Heads of two organizations Bill volunteers for - Pat Porio for the League of Women Voters and Barbara Pearson-Rac for First Night praised him for his long and invaluable service.
Sunrise Rotary Past President John Franklin noted Bill’s many contributions. President Steve Violette and a few members, all wearing Bill’s trademark khaki shorts, followed and also thanked him for what has done - and continues to do for the club. Rotarian Kate Kirby presented him with a large scrap book full of letters of warm wishes and thanks, and photos taken throughout his years in Westport - and even a couple of him as a Korean War soldier.
RTM Moderator Hadley Rose and Deputy Moderator Eileen Flug recognized Bill as the longest serving member - and the one who has made the most announcements about other groups and activities in town. Dewey Loselle burst into this mock meeting to treat everyone to a Bill Meyer send up. Wearing a jacket with even more candidate’s campaign buttons than Meyer wears during the season, and carrying a yellow duck, he made some typical announcements to introduce the crowd to Bill’s rapid fire delivery and his trademark fist pump.
Pete Wolgast reminded everyone about the work Bill did to enhance the Blackfeet Indian nation economically and in their own pride of self. Meyer donned a full head dress awarded him by tribal elders who named him an Honorary Chief in recognition for his growing a small pencil manufacturing business into a significant supplier to governments across the country, and for building an enterprise employing 800 people and ultimately benefitting over 2,000.
Barbara Butler, Director of Human Services, and her staff thanked Meyer for all he has done, particularly for his work at the Senior Center, including hosting their annual Super Bowl party.
Following a beautiful thank you serenade by Leslie Orofino, the Reverend Alison Patton and Craig Matheson read a final proclamation, from the Saugatuck Congregational Church, that seemed to omit few - if any - of the many things Meyer has done for the town and for its citizens, young and old.
Guests at the event were treated to music by Bob Lasprogato’s Uptown Jazz trio, a slideshow produced by Dave Matlow, and including photos from others including Larry Untermeyer and Bill Balch, and light snacks and wine were provided by Jo Fuchs-Luscombe and Jim Marpe.
A Facebook page was created by Steve Axthelm for softball alumnae to offer their well wishes: www.facebook.com/westportsoftballlovesbillmeyer. If you are one - or if you know someone who is - it’s not too late! Go there, leave him a message.