Contrary to the old adage that “No good deed goes unpunished”, two devoted volunteers at Forest Park recently received very high praise in the form of commendations from the President of the United States.
Bill Bly and Gail Depew recently received autographed cards and photos from Barack Obama for their work with the Festival of Lights at the park.
Bly and his neighbor Depew take care of repair, painting, construction and reconstruction of over 400 Christmas light displays which adorn the park each year. The lights are turned on from Thanksgiving to New Year and the wind and weather take their toll. The Bly-Depew team spends most of the year making sure everything is working properly for the next season.
Their work has not gone unnoticed.
“I was surprised,” said Bly. “I got a signed card from Congressman John Shimkus last year, but I wasn’t expecting one from the office of the President.”
Bly got involved with the Festival of Lights a little more than six years ago, when he heard help was needed. “I was retired and heard they needed some help, so I went over there. It was a time when a lot of people had quit working on the lights, so I went to see what I could do.”
As it turned out, Bly’s past experiences would serve him well. “I like to do electrical work, welding, and repair stuff in general, so it was right down my line,” he said.
Bly spent his first year with outgoing Festival of Lights supervisor Perk Wilson. Shortly after that, he was joined by his neighbor Gail Depew.
Not only do Bly and Depew repair existing displays, some are built from scratch. Over eight of the displays in the park were designed and built Bly and Depew. “I come up with some of the ideas and Bill builds them,” she said as she applied finishing touches with oil-based paint. “We make everything bright and white.”