Who is he? Bill Bell, 68, moved to Rockford from Freeport about a month and a half ago with his wife, Nora. The Bells have six sons and three granddaughters spread out from California to New Jersey. Bill retired several years ago and found very quickly that retirement didn’t suit him. About five years ago, he became a Red Cross disaster volunteer in southern Illinois and worked on all types of disasters, from Hurricane Katrina to single-family house fires. In 2006, AmeriCorps VISTA assigned Bill to the Northwest Illinois Chapter in Freeport as homeland security liaison. He now works for the American Red Cross Rock River Chapter in Rockford as its emergency preparedness and response manager.
Do you belong to any clubs/groups/boards? As a part of my job both here and previously in Freeport, I was involved in numerous committees and task forces primarily relating to disaster and social services. In Freeport, I was active in my church, a local ham radio organization and also was a member of the Eagles. I’m also a trained storm spotter.
What inspires you to do what you do? I think that not only myself, but any Red Cross volunteer is motivated by a spirit of compassion and a desire to help others in times of need.
What is up next for you? We are now working on improving our training program in an effort to increase our volunteer base. If any readers are interested in working with the Red Cross, please give us a call.
What do you do for fun? Just last year, I became a licensed ham radio operator. I enjoy singing. I was a barbershopper for several years. Two other interests that have been consistent throughout my life have been photography and model railroading.
What do you like best about your job? The people, both co-workers and clients. Being able to help people at the time of a disaster is a very rewarding experience.
What is something people are surprised to learn about you? I was the Grand Prix champion slot car driver of Bad Kreuznach, Germany, in 1966.
What is the best advice you have ever received? My father was a doctor who smoked heavily. I can still remember sitting down as a teenager with him and having him convince me not to start smoking.
What did you want to be when you grew up? My father was a doctor, and my first inclination was to pursue a career in medicine.
Do you have any funny life experiences? I feel that it is very important to have a good sense of humor. I tend consider myself a creative practical joker. My family used to, and still does, dread April 1 because they never know what I’m going to come up with. With six boys, there were many opportunities.
What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced? I spent six and a half years in the Army, and my wife and I moved six times in six years. In that time, we had four children, and as an only child, dealing with that many babies was, to say the least, challenging. In thinking back, did I mention how much I love and appreciate my wife?
What is something you think the Rock River Valley needs? Maybe it’s just because I’m a train nut, but I feel that bringing passenger rail service to the area would be a great asset to the community.
Compiled by Corina Curry – Rockford Register Star.