Eganville – I can’t recall meeting the young Irishman who first came to Canada to spend the summer of 1980 at the Howard farm in Donegal, but one of our reporters at the time, Kim Stringer, interviewed 22-year-old Bill Enright who had come to this country to get some practical experience in agriculture.

Something that immediately jumps out at me from reading that story is Kim referred to him as Bill Enright, not William as we all know and refer to him today. In fact, if you call him by any other version of William, he is quick to note, it’s William! When I am in one of my joking moods, and feel like irking him, I love getting under his skin by calling him Bill, Billy or, if I am really feeling brave, Willy!

William Enright would return to Canada on several occasions between his first visit and when he finally moved here full time in 2014, but before that he would work around the world in several countries mostly in the  animal health industry, as an agriculture researcher, business development/marketing and commercial operations in such countries as the Netherlands, the United States (or as William and most Irishmen like to say, America) before retiring from his job as a researcher with Merck at its Montreal entity. He feels strongly that science-based knowledge is crucial to the health and society and he enjoys supporting science on social media and in the press. (And if you don’t believe me, ask letter writer Robbie Anderman!)

He retired in 2014 and moved full time to Eganville, settling in his newly-built home on the old Boland farm at Donegal which he had purchased a few years before retiring.

After discovering in recent years he had two brothers, both of them and their families visited with William in April 2022. Now, he is leaving the Eganville community and returning to his native Ireland to be close to his new-found family.

Almost 100 people who enjoyed a farewell dinner in William’s honour last Friday night. These were people he sat with on the many boards, organizations and clubs he belonged to and some very close friends.

This coming weekend, the Howard clan, his neighbours in the Donegal section of Bonnechere Valley Township and friends will say their last farewell to William at a reception in “the barn” at John Sheridan’s residence.

Communities like Eganville welcome new residents all the time, but every once in awhile a real cracker-jack-type-of-a-person will move in and jump into community life with both feet, volunteering for many different roles, joining organizations and clubs, and generally making significant contributions for the betterment of many.

William Enright is that kind of person. Kind, generous, committed, dependable, knowledgeable, positive, passionate, determined, energetic and compassionate. And a whole lot more.

My first official introduction came through a brief conversation after mass at St. James Church several years ago and eventually our paths would criss-cross as we both are involved in community organizations and activities, but not always volunteering with the same organizations or for the same causes.

He joined the Eganville and District Seniors Needs Association in 2015 and served on the board until 2021, four and a half years as president. Under his guidance and leadership, operations were streamlined, a strong effort was made to secure grants and the organization was, indeed, successful in obtaining a lot of money that was used to launch new programs for seniors, purchase new equipment for both electronic and sporting activities, and also to assist with improvements to the building and grounds. He also was an important bridge between the Eganville and Area Long-Term Care Corporation (Fairfields), owners of the building, and the seniors’ board of directors, establishing a goo working relationship between the two organizations.

He led by example: volunteering numerous hours to take people to medical appointments, delivering Meals-on-Wheels, often filling in when the designated driver was unable to do the job, and taking his and other people’s turns working at Delta Gaming in Pembroke which in turn gives part of its profits back to the organizations that provide volunteers.

 William’s involvement in the Eganville Curling Club was the beginning of better days for the rink which had struggled with declining numbers and income. He joined the executive in 2016 and served until 2021. He was a catalyst bringing about many improvements to the centre. Working with such people as Gerald Priestly and several others, they succeeded in securing grants to make improvements to the building and its infrastructure and was able to come up with matching funds by introducing such revenue streams as the Escape Room, which had become a bit of a craze a few years prior to the pandemic.

If you want a job done, you ask a busy person and that was what happened when he joined the Eganville and Area Community Development Group. I had the pleasure of sitting on the executive with William, Don Bishop, Diane Moore and Claude Chartrand from 2017 to 2019. We had fun, but more importantly, we made a huge impact on the community. Two very successful Dinner-on-the-Bridge events on Canada Day became unique events in Eganville’s history and are still talked about today by many people who enjoyed those experiences.  Not only would William ensure the new businessman in town – in this case Nirmal Parvinder of Eganville Shell – was invited, but that he also would receive a warm Valley welcome.

William would be among the workers, setting up tables and chairs, serving food, tearing it down after the fireworks shows. He and EACDG member Johanna Zomers would undertake to produce two very popular Discover Eganville summer publications.

William’s interests were many and varied, but much of his attention was devoted to health care and seniors, which led him to joining the ConnectWell Community Health group which has expanded into Eganville from Beachburg and Cobden, providing Nurse Practitioners and other medical services, and alleviating the workload on Dr. Michael Petrini. Currently the vice-chair of this organization, he was being groomed from the chair’s position but declined it when he made the decision to return to his native land. As a board member, and with no skin in the game (many members are employees of local hospitals, etc.), William asked the tough questions, he fought to ensure all the power of the new organization wasn’t centred in one area of the county and that all areas were represented fairly.

In 2021, he was also a member of the Patient and Family Group, one of the stakeholders in the Application Coordination Group for the “Network 24” Ontario Health Team.

A devout Catholic who practices his faith in his own quiet way, William has also been an avid participant in the weekly masses at St. James Church where he performs a number of lay duties ranging from altar server to reader to eucharistic minister. Normally, a Saturday evening mass goer, he rarely attends church without contributing in some way to the service.

William was invited to join the board of the Eganville and Area Long-Term Care Corporation – Fairfields -in 2019 and has been an invaluable member. His work on writing and rewriting policies and dealing with matters that require knowledge, patience and understanding of dealing, or shall I say, coping with bureaucracy, has been invaluable. He is always learning about new grants that might assist Fairfields, Senior Needs, or both and is clever when it comes to filling out applications and using the language bureaucrats want to hear.

Despite his hectic schedule, William found the time to play bridge, golf – locally and in far off places like Portugal, to play tennis, to attend local plays and theatre productions, and innumerable community fundraisers, to visit the sick and shut-ins, to lend a helping hand to those in need, to edit and write policies and by-laws for non-profit organizations and to write and/or edit research documents for large multi-national companies.

If that wasn’t enough to keep him occupied, there were the many trips with individuals from this community who had go to Pembroke or Renfrew and sometimes Ottawa for appointments or to pick up groceries, even lottery tickets for Mike, who had mobility issues. Then there was Sister Cecilia who arrived in Eganville about five years ago, lived in Hillside Apartments and eventually became afflicted with dementia. With no immediate family, William went out of his way to help her as much as he could until she was finally admitted to a long-term care facility.

And last, but not least, he managed to squeeze in time almost every Tuesday to proofread many of the pages of the Leader before sending them to press. He has wonderful editing skills and is one of the few people I know of with a strong knowledge of the English language, its proper use and the proper use of punctuation.

After he was re-united with his brothers, Gerard and Brian, in April 2022, my wife, Wanda, commented she wouldn’t be surprised if William decided to move back home and so, when he broke the news he was planning to do just that, it wasn’t a big surprise, but it was indeed sad to hear.

So as our dear friend and colleague leaves the fields of Donegal, and the rugged beauty of the Ottawa Valley to take up residence in Claremorris, in a valley surrounded by rolling drumlins and hills, we say a huge thank you for your numerous contributions that have improved the lives of many, many people. Your involvement in so many areas and your accomplishments over nearly a decade are more than most people will make in a lifetime.

How fortunate am I that it makes saying good-bye so sad and difficult.

We wish you all the best, William, as you are repatriated with your home and native land. You leave us with many fond memories and lasting legacies. Your impact was tremendous.

God willing, we will meet again, but until then, may He watch over and guide you every day of your life.