BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Growing up in White-house, William “Billy” Taylor loved fishing and swimming in the big quarry, and – as a teen – waxing his 1961 Mercury and cruising past the downtown bank to slow down and admire his reflection.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1980, Billy was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. He struggled with the disease, yet always continued on in a positive way, said White-house Mayor Don Atkinson, who invited Billy’s family and friends to the June 6 council meeting.
“Whitehouse lost a kindred spirit,” Atkinson said. “He was known around town. You could see him riding around town on his orange, VW, three-wheeled motorcycle. Billy touched a lot of lives. Mine was one of those.”
His friend, Ron Bier-baum, shared how a group of friends collaborated on a project that turned out to be what Billy called the best day of his life – even up until the day before he died on May 18.
“It could have been a summer day swimming, watching his favorite NASCAR driver win the big race or maybe the Cleveland Browns actually winning a game,” Bier-baum said. “Those were all good days, but not his best day.”
That best day was 31 years ago.
A 1992 photo shows Billy perched on the orange motorized trike surrounded by friends Ted Hensley, Craig Mullins, Chip Plymale, Terry Bucher, Scott Bucher, Doug Studer, Larry Mainhart, Dave Sain, John Cheeseboro, Terry Naylor, Dave Gurnsey, Ed Zwyer and Scott Stafford.
It was two weeks before Christmas 1992, and Hensley was at a biker fest with Billy.
“He didn’t have a ride. Craig said, ‘That’s it. We’re buying him a trike,’” Hensley recalled.
Hensley and Mullins found a used trike in bad condition, and for the next two weeks, the group of 13 men worked around the clock, finding parts, fixing the engine and restoring that trike into Billy’s “freedom-mobile.”
On Christmas Eve 1992, the group met at Legends –what is now Local Thyme – for karaoke. They presented Billy with a title and a set of keys, then led him outside to their gift.
“When he climbed on it, he was free,” Hensley said. “He had wings. He was riding on it through the snow. The smile on his face was priceless.”
For 31 years, Billy rode all over. One year, his friends transported his trike and their bikes to Colorado, where they rode around the state.
“He was everywhere. He was free,” Hensley said. “We did that out of our brotherly love for Billy.”
The Taylor family, including his mom Loretta and siblings Clayton Taylor, Teresa Fedor, Laurie Plymale, Daniel Taylor, Angie Heier and Cindy Stratton, watched as Atkinson presented certificates of appreciation to the 13 men involved with the project.
“It was refreshing to me to hear about a group of friends getting together to use their hands to lift a friend up,” Atkinson said. “It’s good to see people in this community doing good for other people.”
During the meeting, council also:
• Listened to residents of Whitehouse Valley seek help for maintenance of a retention pond.
• Heard Police Chief Allan Baer say that conditional offers of employment are out to Jeff Siebenaler – who was deputy chief of Waterville Township Police – and to Anthony Wayne graduate Dylan Ware, a U.S. Army Airborne infantryman. Their hiring will fill two of the three empty positions.
• Approved a Dancing in the Park event for the pavilion on Friday, June 19 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. for students and families of Step by Step Dance Studio, with alternate dates of Thursday, June 22 or Friday, June 23. The public is welcome to attend.
• Listened to Jim Szczerbiak, of 9871 Julianna Lane, ask when a horse chestnut tree that was removed from his right of way would be replaced. Trees are usually planted in the fall, said Public Works Director Steve Pilcher. A total of 80 trees, including 30 at Sandra Park, are planned for planting this fall.
• Thanked Amy Bartley for choosing the winning name for the pocket park on Providence Street, now called Village Social.
• Approved interfund transfers of $743,000 to cover expenses including streetscaping, shelter house improvements, street resurfacing and sealing, Village Social park, the Industrial Parkway water main and the elevated water storage tank project.
• Heard that permits for three new homes were issued so far in 2023.
• Watched Pilcher present the mayor with a rededication plaque that will hang in the refurbished shelter house.
• Wished Henry Haines, a part-time Public Works employee, well as he is joining the Navy next month.
• Heard that Public Works employee Paul Wielinski has completed his wastewater collection system training and is pursuing his certification through the EPA.
• Agreed to cancel the Tuesday, July 4 meeting.