They Buried Bill, and a Bit of Main Street

By dhowell - Posted on 03 January 2008

by Marie Schneider (reprinted from the Jackson Citizen Patriot)

February 28, 1964

They buried Bill Blumenauer last week. And this village isn't quite the same.

It has lost someone who was as much a part of everyday Main Street as the Raisin River bridge, the Union Bank and the grist mill.

Bill was not thought of as prominent. He never held a village office. He was no politician, no civic leader. But he was a friend to everyone and he greeted one and all with a cheery, "Hi, shotsie!" (Schatz is the German word for sweetheart).

He was nearly totally blind.

Main Street was Bill's front yard. Until recently he lived in a room above one of the stores -a place he seldom stayed except to sleep. This was because he liked to be with people.

His handicap didn't seem to affect his good nature and many residents here believed him to be the happiest person in the village.

Bill's blindness was the result of catching measles when he was an infant. He used to say that he never remembered seeing a color. Everything was a shade of gray, varying only in intensity. He used to wonder what grass would look like if anyone could see the color green. The 77-year-old Bill said that in the last few years he could barely make out the outlines of objects.

One thing was certain ... Bill wanted no part of charity. For years he shoveled coal until he could do the heavy work no longer.

He supplemented his small Social Security income by doing errands. He did the banking for many of the business places, took mail to and from the Post Office and did various kinds of work.

In the winter he shoveled snow in front of the stores, and if you had hired Bill to sweep the walks, you knew that they'd be taken care of on Sunday just as well as Monday. His dependability was one of his greatest assets.

He had an excellent memory. While others needed to make out a list of things to shop for, Bill didn't. It wouldn't have helped any, because he couldn't see. He used a white cane in crossing streets.

Bill's feelings were hurt if anyone failed to pass the time of day with him. He enjoyed visiting with children and teenagers and knew a few German songs he liked to sing.

Although Bill carried mail for people along the street, he received very little himself. There probably were few people in the Bethel United Church, of which he was a member, who listened to or read the church report as intently as Bill listened when his was read to him, sometimes asking that it be repeated in places where he was trying hard to memorize what was said. Sometimes he'd bring in a newspaper and ask to have a few of the headlines read to him as he'd try to piece together what other people were talking about.

"Shucks, shotsie, I'd hate to ask what they were talking about, but I'd like to know more and maybe someone could read it to me, if we could find the right article," he'd chuckle.

Many people thought Bill was just a happy-golucky individual without a care in the world. But he once remarked that everybody had troubles enough of their own without adding his. He demanded little and was thankful for everything he had.

"I have one good hot dinner every day, a place to sleep and a lot of friends," he used to say. "I don't know that I have a single enemy. What more could anyone ask for?"

The mention of Bill Blumenauer's name still brings smiles to people's faces.