Unsung Hero #49

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.

Bill Vornkahl

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.

In 2015, Bill Vornkahl and 3 Girl Scout Daisies recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

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.

19 responses to “Unsung Hero #49

  1. Dorothy Abrams

    HI BILL, GREETINGS FROM MN.

  2. Barbara Vornkahl

    So proud of you Uncle Bill!!! Looking forward to Monday!

  3. I can’t think of anyone more deserving!

  4. Wow! What a history. Thank you.

  5. Michael Calise

    This is a grand and exceptional choice! You have it the nail on the head Dan.

  6. Nancy Powers Conklin

    Congratulations to Bill! He IS an unsung hero, in Westport and in the world. He was a good friend of both of my parents and was always willing to help them when help was needed. What a great guy who truly deserves this honor!

  7. My father worked with Bill Vornkahl for years at the Westport Bank and Trust Co. In 1959 as a Cub scout I built a crystal radio set. Radios don’t get any more primative then a crystal set. I got the set home but after a number of hours was unable to get a signal. My father said he had a friend at work with alot of experience with radios. Anyway to make a long story short Mr Vornkahl came over to the house made some adjustments to the set and was able to get a signal (wmmm), I was a happy camper. I am very happy to hear that Bill is still very active in town.

  8. Thats a great one!!! Bill had done awesome things for Westport!

  9. Jennifer Rankine

    Thank you, Bill Vornkahl, for your many years of service. The Westport Memorial Day parade and ceremony represent a special day in our town.

  10. Dan … do you have a contact email address for Mr Vornkahl ? He was the VP at Westport Bank & Trust when I was growing up in town. His son Bill is my age and we went to the same church St Paul’s Lutheran. I’d like to send him a message of thanks. Long long ago I was one of those Girl Scouts marching in the Memorial Day parade. Appreciate your help. Ellen Kuehm staples ‘73 now residing in Georgia .

    • Hi Ellen,

      Unfortunately, I don’t have email for him. If anyone does, please let me know. Alternatively, you can post a message for him here in the Comments section. i’m sure he’d love to hear from you.

      THANKS – Dan

    • Janine Scotti

      I go to St Paul with Bill and would love to tell him about your message. It is an honor to worship with him each week and I cry every year when he reads the soldiers poem. I love our parade and always stay for the service or go inside when it rains, we should all stay and honor all of the veterans.

  11. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    wonderful choice. Thank you Bill for all your years of dedication to Westport and the U.S.A. You exemplify the best of this country.

  12. Daryl Styner, D.D.S.

    Westporters are truly lucky to have Bill Vornkahl. We should shower him with an abundance of accolades during his lifetime. May he live forever in the hearts of all those whose lives have been touched by his selflessness to his beloved town.

  13. Tom Feeley Sr

    “Behind the scenes” is how he does it year after year. Thanks Comrade 🇺🇸🇺🇸

  14. Thank you Dan for highlighting Bill’s service to Veterans and Westport. Maybe for next year’s parade (his 50th) Bill ought to be riding in the lead car as Grand Marshall of the parade instead of monitoring it from the golf cart at the tag end.

  15. I think you hit the nail on the head Bob Grant. Thank you Bill for being a great Westport citizen.

  16. Susan Vornkahl Meineke

    I am extremely proud to call Bill Vornkahl, my Dad! Thank you for this recognition.

  17. Elizabeth Popovich-Kaplan, Staples '65

    Thank you Bill Vornkahl for all that you do! My uncle, Basil Popowich, remembers you from his years living in Westport; where he was born and where he lived on Roseville Road until December 2014, when he moved to NC to be near his daughter. Uncle Basil is also a Korean War vet.

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