Bill Paul spent a lifetime sharing his booming voice with those in London, Ont., who were lucky enough to hear it, and during a memorial service on Friday, about 100 people had a chance to return the favour.
News of Bill Paul’s death broke on Thanksgiving weekend and was soon followed by an outpouring of tributes online for the man who had long been a staple of the Forest City.
Often seen at many local events, Paul was known as London’s town crier and wore a signature costume that included a walking stick, a cape and his bell.
Among his countless other roles in the city, Paul was also the host of Socrates Cafe and Straight Talk on Fanshawe College’s 106.9 The X, as well as the founder of local entertainment company Laffguards.
‘Beaming face, booming voice’: Londoners remembering town crier Bill Paul
“If you didn’t know the name, you certainly knew the beaming face, and booming voice,” read a Facebook post by Mayor Ed Holder.
“Over the years, Bill selflessly and enthusiastically brought joy and laughter to countless numbers of Londoners.”
On Friday, friends and fans alike gathered outside of O’Neil Funeral Home for a service to honour Paul, followed by a procession to Victoria Park led by the Western Mustang Band.
Longtime friend John Sutton said he first met Paul when they both attended Central Secondary School.
“Bill was the editor and ran the school newspaper called Action Central and I was the photographer,” Sutton said.
“Bill was involved in so many things — the paper, the yearbook … I was actually looking through my old photographs last night and saw him even before that. It’s amazing how young we looked.”
Sutton was among the more than 9,000 people included in Paul’s Book of Birthdays, which contained a list of phone numbers that Paul would personally call on that person’s special day.
“Usually (he’d call) at some very early hour, and I said, ‘Bill, you’ve got to call later than this, it’s too early,’” Sutton joked.
Ann Cromp says Paul was like family, having done “many special birthday parties” for her and her relatives.
“It’s going to be so sad … my boy’s birthday is actually this coming Wednesday and I had to tell him that Bill will not be able to do their last song,” Cromp said.
“With the people that are here today, I can see that he was well-liked and loved by our community.”
Cromp’s father, Tony Cuzzocrea, knew Paul for 45 years.
“Bill is one the greatest human beings I know. He was so loving, so kind, always wanted to help people,” Cuzzocrea said.
“You know what was amazing? Is that I had this desire the last time I saw him, about six days before his death, to give him a huge hug and say, ‘I love you forever,’ and I’ll never forget that.”
Wendy Wilson says she knew Paul for many years, along with Roy McDonald, a late poet, author and storyteller who was known as the “Mayor of Richmond Row.”
“I left (London) in 1984 and I came back in 2011 and I was so shocked to see Bill and Roy, still hanging in there,” Wilson said.
“He was just such a happy face at every event, I was in his birthday book, he was also at Acoustic Spotlight, so he had quite a presence around town.”
“He deserves this for sure.”
A virtual celebration of life for Paul has been scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.
The event is free to watch and will be streamed live on Facebook.
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