The Houlton Maine area lost a good soul this week in Billy Weber. Despite being a hat wearing, card caring New York Yankees fan in the heart of Red Sox Baseball Nation, Billy had a heart of gold.
Especially if the local Maine event you needed help with involved kids, youth sports.
Since 1996, the first year of the Northern Maine Soap Box Derby program, Bill was one of the anchors of the highly important "Zoo Crew".
A rag tag looking bunch with the appearance of someone from the chain gang, work release from a local correctional center.
But workers extreme.
Bill would intercept derby cars at the bottom of the engineered hill we race on.
Make sure the drivers shook hands, showed good sportsmanship win or lose.
Then Bill along with John Benn, Terry Wallace, Ricky Tidd, Donny McGary, Mitch or Chris Holmes, Danny Emerson, Dave Harbison, Leigh Dow, John Skehan and a crew of young bucks not so long ago derby racers would give the big heave ho.
Lift the car on to a specially designed trailer to change wheels, insert the cotter pins and get those Nascar like gravity for an engine racers back up to topside to load in the gates.
To start a new heat, to finish a "B" phase to determine the winner in this electric eye timed racing event.
The cars of the little drivers are very heavy weighted. Good luck getting the car in Lane One before Bill who would shoo you away. Lifting each and every car in that lane personal, on one end.
Our Houlton Maine race was the largest in the country five years in a row with close to 200 racers and hundreds of heats to determine the top eight in each division and the ultimate winners of stock, super stock, master division racers to head to Akron Ohio.
Watch a Maine soap box derby video and see Bill in the always interesting, unpredictable head kerchief.
Get In, Hang On, Gravity Racing Maine Soap Box Derby Cars Are Topside In The Gates, Have A Green Light To Launch Video.
Rain or shine, blistering sun or rip the shingles off your roof gale force winds, it did not matter. Bill Weber was there. And the kind of guy if you only had one phone call to make and found yourself in a pickle, no matter where, Bill would be one of the people you knew would show up. Give you a hand.
But the Maine Soap Box Derby was not his only passion. To be around the kids and see the initial terror the first time racing down that big 900 foot plus vertical incline. And also the ear to ear grinning as the racers advanced up the heat sheet brackets.
Bill also loved hockey.
Was a coach of the local Southern Aroostook Minor Hockey Association. Long after his own son Christopher went up through the ranks of SAMHA and eventually hung up the jersey as a Houlton Hodgdon Hockey Blackhawks defense-man.
Bill told the team my son was on that boys, this locker room here and on the road on away games is our living room. Your players are like a family. Stuck together and will win working as a team or lose as individuals.
I don't care what the score is, how close to the end of the third period it is, dig deeper.
Play harder and find something inside you did not know you had.
Bring that out on to the sheet of ice and have fun pushing to be your best.
To make your Maine home town proud.
Never back down, also skate a half step or more ahead and control the puck, playing up the weak side as you swivel your head.
Seeing the ice and the changing combinations of what is going to happen next.
And be at that open space in the ice to receive the pass.
Bill Weber died this week.
The entire town will miss him. So will our furnaces. He worked as a home heating professional and he was.
A one man show and you knew when you called, Bill would be there in the middle of the night if your furnace when out. Bill Weber was dependable, a fierce competitor, yes a Yankees fan. And a good husband, family man. On behalf of the Northern Maine Soap Box Derby Association, The Houlton Maine hockey program, our deepest condolences for the Weber (Rush) family in this time of deep grieving and personal loss. We all were shocked, sorry to hear of the news of his death at 60 years of age.