Bill Wills, a founding member of the Southeast Virginia Chapter of TU in Virginia Beach, was given the national Distinguished Service Award from Trout Unlimited at its 2013 annual meeting in Middleton, Wisc.
Born in Yonkers, N.Y., Bill’s earliest days with TU were as a member of the Croton Watershed Chapter. He worked on conservation improvements to the East Branch of the Croton and also with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on a variety of conservation activities.
Bill moved to Virginia in 1980 to retire, and helped to form the Southeast Virginia Chapter, serving as one of its early vice presidents. Conservation activities centered around the restoration of Mossy Creek. Although Mossy is several hours from Virginia Beach, Bill participated in half a dozen in-stream projects in his retirement. He and his wife, Helen, also hosted annual chapter parties and held raffles to donate funds to the Virginia Council of TU for conservation work.
Since 1998, chapter member Bill Campbell has been teaching an introduction to fly fishing class at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake. The class is geared toward getting kids interested in the sport of fly fishing and it involves hands-on demonstrations in fly tying and fly casting. According to chapter vice president Kevin Du Bois, “Over the four workshops a year for the past 15 years, Bill has probably coached over 100 kids in tying their very first woolly bugger.”
In the nomination for the award, other chapter members talked about how important Bill’s leadership and friendship have been to the group. “Bill was, in the early years, a constant presence—encouraging membership, scheduling meetings, teaching fly-tying, instructing with the fly-rod, and encouraging us to make the fly-stream trips,” said member Bill Jonak. “He really was the backbone of our local club—the glue that held us together. I think that, without his encouragement, the club would have folded early-on.”
In honor of Bill’s contributions, the chapter recently renamed itself the Bill Wills Southeast Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Added Du Bois, “When it comes time to volunteer for conservation, for kids, for whatever, with him, or in his name, there is no hesitation. Bill has an army of volunteers that have worked to improve trout waters and grow the next generation of trout conservationists, because we honor his commitment to us—paying it forward as we go.”
Bill was able to travel to Wisconsin to receive the award in person thanks to financial assistance from the Virginia Council and local chapter members. You can read more about his trip to the annual meeting at http://sweeetandsalt.blogspot.com/2013/09/bill-wills-wins-tu-distinguished.html.
The chapter’s Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/BillWillsTroutUnlimitedChapterOfSoutheastVirginia.