On Monday, Westport celebrates Memorial Day.
We do it with one of the town’s most popular and beloved events of the year: a fun, wonderful and wide-ranging parade, followed by a solemn yet uplifting ceremony across from Town Hall.
It’s a huge undertaking. Hundreds of town employees and volunteers pitch in to make it all work. It seems effortless, but it’s anything but.
None of it would happen, though, without the leadership of Bill Vornkahl.
This will be the Westporter’s 49th year at the helm. When he started in 1970, the parade may have included Spanish-American War veterans. Today there are only a few who served in World War II.
Vornhkahl — now 88 years old — is a Korean War vet. He spent 14 months on the island of Hokkaido, Japan, working as a high-speed radio operator in the 1st Cavalry Division.
In 2013, he was inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.
Vornkahl has been a member of the Westport Veterans Council even longer than he’s run the parade: 57 years.
From 1996 to ’99 he was treasurer of Westport’s War Monument Committee, helping place memorials to various wars on Veterans Green.
He joined the Greens Farms Volunteer Fire Company in 1950. He’s served as secretary/treasurer of both that company and Saugatuck Hose Company #4, and as president of the Westport Volunteer Fire Company from 1973 to ’93.
He coached Little League for more than 20 years, and for over a decade was part of the Staples High School football sideline crew.
Vornkahl has dedicated his life to Westport. Of all he’s done, the Memorial Day parade is his special passion. He makes sure it all happens flawlessly.
Of course, the one thing he can’t control is the weather. The last 2 years, predictions of rain have canceled the parade, and moved the ceremonies indoors.
You may have seen him inside Town Hall, introducing the color guard, bands and speakers.
This Monday, we all hope he’ll be outdoors on Veterans Green, doing the same.
He’ll be busy — as he has been every Memorial Day since 1970. So now is the best time to thank him for all he does.
Veterans usually don’t like honors. But Bill Vornkahl is a true Unsung Hero.