Bill Paul died this weekend from natural causes. He was 66.
If you didn't live in or near London, Ontario, you probably didn't know Bill. He held the unofficial position, if one can hold an unofficial position, of Town Crier. He founded Laff Guards and, with them, clowned, painted faces, made balloon animals, and entertained folks. Bill kept a birthday book of thousands of people he knew or had encountered: my wife and I were among those he would phone and wish a happy birthday.
He gave talks and, for years, hosted a radio talk show covering local events and personalities. I was on it a few times.
And he turned up at every local event. Parades. Conventions. Music festivals. Book festivals. Free Comic Book Day. Charity events. New Year's Day levees. If something big was happening in the region, you could expect to see Bill, cheerful anachronism in colourful garb, his tricorne and bell and his burly beard. During the down time created by COVID, he was at work on a new outfit, hoping to cry in events for years to come.
Joseph O'Neil, a close friend of Bill's, said, "Imagine that you're going downtown and all of a sudden, you know, the courthouse or a major building disappeared," he said. "He's like a fixture."
His funeral will take place later this week. A piece of history has passed. The world has just grown a little less entertaining and charmingly idiosyncratic.
If there's an afterlife that requires a town crier, I'd like to give a reference.