Lake Norman & Mooresville

N.Y. transplant is top-notch volunteer in Huntersville

It turns out Bill Walsh’s community involvement can be reined in, after all. But only if he’s laid up in a hospital.

Walsh came down with a serious infection just before Thanksgiving.

“Before he went into the hospital, he applied for a volunteer position with the Huntersville Parks and Rec,” said Huntersville Planning Board member Dan Boone.

“When I visited with Bill, he asked me to call several commissioners … to tell them that he was withdrawing his name as a candidate because he could not put his best foot forward.”

It may be an understatement to say that Walsh, 56, is an overachiever when it comes to volunteering. Among his hospital visitors was Huntersville Chief of Police Cleveland Spruill.

On the mend after going home Jan. 8, Walsh looks forward to returning to his work with Support for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer; the Olde Huntersville Historic Society; the Huntersville Police Department; and North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers.

What’s most impressive to fellow Huntersville residents about the couple’s community involvement is how Walsh and his wife, Madelyn “Lyn” Harper-Walsh, have made such a powerful impact in less than 1 1/2 years. They moved from Long Island, N.Y., in August 2013, when Lyn’s company set up a second headquarters in Davidson.

Walsh downplays the extent of their efforts.

“We both have a passion for it. Back home, we didn’t have the time to be as involved because of our children. Now, here we are in a new area, just the two of us, and we have extra time,” he said.

“We find it interesting. You get a certain sense of pleasure out of helping.”

Because Lyn is a cancer survivor and they were involved with a SPOHNC chapter in New York, they made it a priority to start a chapter in their new town. She’s the facilitator for the local chapter, one of about 130 in the United States.

Bill Walsh wants to keep spreading the word about the group, especially since other types of cancer get more publicity and funding.

“Head and neck cancers represent only about 4 percent of all cancers,” he said. “The Huntersville United Methodist Church opened their doors to us and allows us to use their facility for our meeting on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. The place is absolutely perfect – ample parking, well lit, there’s no steps. Just a win-win thing.”

In addition, as major presence with the Olde Huntersville Historic Society, Walsh is not reluctant to tackle big projects.

“Bill was the driving force to renovate the Huntersville Arts & Cultural Center (the old Huntersville library),” said Boone, also an OHHS member who helped Walsh with painting the center.

“This was a major project that took several months to complete. He worked with the town of Huntersville, (the) Parks and Recreation Department, and the OHHS to complete the task.”

Walsh said when arriving in Huntersville, he hit the ground running due to his curiosity and his desire to take advantage of the many services offered to newcomers.

“I’m in a new state, with new laws, in a new area geographically, so my wife encouraged me to go to the library and take some free classes that they offer here in town and down in the main library in Charlotte. I went to the Carolina Room (a source for local history) and was amazed at what they had there.

“One thing led to another. I took some free computer classes and took a class at the Charlotte School of Law – let’s call it an “attorney-to-be” lab – that teaches about 501(c)(3)s.”

He has taken a couple of 10-week classes: Huntersville 101, to learn about various town departments; and a citizens police academy that educates the public about different facets of police work. The latter led to him volunteering at the police department by answering phones and doing clerical work, among other tasks. It also led Walsh to become a board member for Crime Stoppers.

Because he’s still looking for work, Walsh has attended several town hall meetings and a chamber of commerce luncheon in order to network.

Lyn learned of her husband’s commitment and dedication shortly after they were married.

“We’ve only been married 10 years,” she said. “The month after we got married, I got diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer. I went through 14 months of hell. Now, think about that: Newly married, and he didn’t run!

“He was there. He was in it. He was my advocate. He was at the hospital. He took care of me for 14 months. I went through four operations, removal of part of my jaw, lymph nodes, part of my tongue. I have some speech and hearing issues. He went through all of this and was the best caregiver.”

Huntersville Commissioner Sarah McAulay said the couple are an inspiration to the community.

“They’re very approachable people,” she said. “They are very friendly. They just blend in with the area, and they take the lead on things. … I’m looking forward to spring and seeing Bill being able to be actively involved again.”