15 May In Memoriam
The following article was written by a Hopkins Vail Place member in honor of the late William Blubaugh, Hopkins Vail Place member and former member of the Vail Place Board of Directors.
“One Enchanted Evening”
(May 15, 2013) Some years ago I was visiting our sister Clubhouse in Minneapolis. I was scanning the memorial plaques of past members, when a name popped out at me. It was a name I hadn’t seen in more than 30 years. The name surfaced again on official Vail Place stationary. Then most recently I saw the name in the Vail Place newsletter. I got to thinkin’ …
This boy wrestled at the varsity level in the 112Ib weight class in Richfield High School in the early 70’s. Wrestling is not about growling at cameras or pile drivers or the claw. High school wrestling has talent and this kid showed this. He was a strong contender for the team. This guy had focus, he was quick and agile. In wrestling you must take risks on the mat to win. He took plenty, won more matches than he lost. He had an edge that made him successful. He reacted in a split-second to an opponent’s moves. His instincts were keen. As a wrestler, you need discipline, determination, and drive. He had all of that. Under-classmates looked up to him, especially the kids in the lighter weight classes.
At Richfield’s Tinsel Twirl Dance, in his senior year, he and his date were voted the Sweethearts of the Gala by their peers (about 200 couples). The girl on his arm was quite beautiful by anyone’s standards. His sister Julie worked in the neighborhood superette and his brother Craig’s band played 50’s rock and roll on weekends at the Burnsville Bowl. I could never totally forget the name.
I never saw Bill after his graduation. More than 40 years have passed and I got curious about this guy’s life after high school. I went back to Minneapolis Vail Place to talk to an old-timer who has been around the block more than once. CJ, a staffer, who by gazing at the dozens of names on the memorial plaques, said, “I know everyone here. It makes me very humble!” CJ is a longtime employee and corner-stone of Vail Place. He does have some useful information. So I asked CJ about our friend. In A brief conversation these are some of the thoughts I came away with.
Bill was involved at Vail Place, came almost every day. He was the first member to be placed on the Vail Place Board of Directors, quite an honor, quite a feat. Bill was special. He participated in sports offered by Vail, I believe he had the same gusto as in his wrestling days. He may have been a little bit of an instigator for the fun of it. From what CJ remembers, he was a happy guy. He used the T.E. (Transitional Employment) Program effectively, having two or three jobs. Bill was truly responsible for his membership.
CJ told me a story about their canoe trip to BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area), just the two of them. They were portaging trying to find a small lake that CJ knew of. They portaged a long distance, carrying their gear with a canoe over their heads. I think Bill, being a little of a city kid, may have lost patience in the search. Bill didn’t believe they were on a portage trial and was getting frustrated (if you know CJ, they probably were not on the trail). Bill never quit.
They were becoming exhausted at days end. Then the forest opened up to a beautiful body of water, smooth as glass with fish jumping ever so often to break the harmony of the moment. Birds chirped, frogs croaked, cattails and reeds swayed in the breeze. The wind whispered through the trees and critters went about their business. Turtles sunning themselves on logs slide into the depths as these two characters approached. Bill and CJ had stumbled upon Lake Enchanted, that small lake CJ talked about. I bet Bill found peace and serenity that night at the enchanted lake. To guide them home, they found some good orderly directions and CJ probably still has a few more stories of this adventure.
Bill was a popular and soft-spoken leader of Vail Place. Bill never gave up. He broke a new trail in the world of Community Support Programs. Bill successfully passed the baton to members like me, who walk in his shadow today.
Always to be Remembered
William (Billy) Bluebaugh