Thursday, April 14, 2011

It is with great sadness to announce to you the passing of our dearest member and good friend Bill De Long last night April 13 2011 at 12.15AM

Thanks to our Rotary involvement and the caring of so many of you we were able to track down the person who took care of Uncle Billy for some time now in New York and was his legal proxy. That person informed us, more specifically Helen Reisler last night that Billy had passed away in the hospital.

May Uncle Billy rest in peace and please include him in your prayers.

Members of the Rotary Club of New York


Harold William DeLong, better known as “Uncle Billy,” passed away on April 14, at 12:05 AM, as the result of a fall. He had celebrated his 90th birthday on December 7, 2010.

Bill grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he sponsored the annual poetry contest, and had been a member of the Lions Club. He continued to retain a house there and made frequent trips back to his “old home town,” although, in recent years he resided mainly in Queens, NY.

He had boundless energy and loved to travel and meet new people. “The Vagabond,” as he referred to himself, volunteered in any disaster that needed a helping hand, and was the ultimate humanitarian.

As a global volunteer, he comforted sick children in Chernobyl, brought joy into the lives of impoverished children in Africa, and traveled to the Gulf Coast to aid in the recovery after “Hurricane Katrina.” He fed the street kids in Vietnam, served at an educational camp for diabetic children in The republic of Georgia, and entertained children at The Ronald McDonald House in NYC.

“Uncle Billy” also worked in North Dakota, aiding the victims affected by the flooding Red River, and did similar work in Eisenburg, Germany. He aided victims of an earthquake, near Mexico City, and recently traveled to India to work with drug and alcohol dependent youth. When the earthquake occurred, in Malaysia, he lent a helping hand and he volunteered in Mongolia as well. His last mission, in Haiti, was one of Bill’s largest efforts, given the complexity of the situation , the climate, and the age of this volunteer. He would have hopped on a plane to Japan, after the tsunami, if not for the concern of his friends.

A World war 11 veteran, Mr. DeLong had served as a cryptographer and intelligence analyst in the Middle East, and had many unique jobs in his lifetime.
He was a gasket salesman, owned a casket business, and gave over 2000 performances of his one man fashion show. He was a member of the Screen Actors’Guild, and was an “extra” in at least three movies, as well as an opera. Never one to sit still, and being an expert dancer, this spry senior swirled the single women around the floor, in Fred Astaire fashion, as a dance host on several cruise lines.

Retirement was not a concept he understood, so in what others would refer to as their “twilight years,” he used his time as “the oldest working waiter in America who refused to take a pension,” as he proudly introduced himself, at every opportunity. This, he determined, would help him add to his self-created “Uncle Billy Happy Dollars” fund. His friends and waiter buddies, impressed with his philanthropic goals, would add a dollar from time to time.

This served as his social life as well, as many of the ambassadors, celebrities, and politicians he served at the 50-75 annual banquets, became his friends. The speeches at these events, kept him updated on the latest news and trends. His friends knew that they could phone him only up to 11”PM, at which time he turned off his phone in order to watch the news of the day. After that time, a “folksy” message from Bill, including a verbal “beep,” urged them to leave a message,

His acceptance for membership by the Rotary Club of New York, gave him an “extended family,”and was a perfect support system for his humanitarian adventures. He was appointed their “Traveling Ambassador of Good Will,” which he proudly advertised on new business cards.

The members of this prestigious club had a hard time accepting, as real, the numerous stories that Bill continuously related about his activities. They eyed this fast talking, 80 year old new member, with suspicion. It wasn’t until the incoming club president suggested that he take photos of his ongoing adventures, and after some intensive research, convinced the others he was genuine, that he was fully accepted into the “fold.”

When the tragedy of “9/11” occurred, in 2001, “Uncle Billy” was the first club member to arrive at “Ground Zero,” where he showed up in a mask, gloves, and apron, to help the Salvation Army serve food to the rescue workers. He lived the Rotary mantra, “Service Above Self.”
Bill’s proudest moment came when he was awarded the New York Post “Liberty Medal,” by Mayor Bloomberg, at Gracie Mansion, and turned up on the front page of that newspaper, the next day , along with celebrity comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He wore that medal , to every event he attended, for the rest of his life….usually in his waiter’s uniform.

Harold William DeLong, lived a life that could, no doubt, be made into an action movie. He was a great friend and inspiration, who unselfishly helped people in need, never asking for anything in return. He left us with his staunch belief that “one is never too old to help others.” Billy will be deeply missed by a multitude of people, around the globe, whose lives he touched,
Helen Reisler