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The 1927 Buick was flashy but flawed. Tall and roomy with davenport seats, the car also had a faulty fuel pump that caused it to run out of gas at regular intervals. So every seven miles, Bill Conyer would pull over, get out, and add fuel. One night, on his way to the local skating rink with two buddies and three girls, Bill was pouring gas into the spout when he realized one of the girls had slipped out of the backseat to help him. She hadn’t been his date that night, but fate had a different plan. Bill and Polly – affectionately known as Red because of her hair color – have been together ever since.
Today, the Conyers are Hopelink volunteers. And every Thursday morning, they settle in at a long table in the chilly warehouse at Hopelink's Kirkland Center and go to work. If there's a good supply of rice, Bill and Polly will spend the next two hours dividing up 50-pound bags into family sized portions. Other days, they will re-package pasta or bagels. “Whatever they need,” Bill says.
Whatever they need extends to food donations as well, according to Kirkland Food Bank Coordinator Ted Richardson.
“Bill and Polly often bring in supplies when we’re low, which is a big help,” he said. “And Bill keeps me on task – always letting me know what we need in the food bank.”
Bill speaks modestly about the volunteering he and his wife of 65 years have done over the years. Both have been scout leaders, and they have been foster parents. For the past 15 years, Bill has served as an honor guard and chaplain for veterans' funeral services; both reciting the prayer and firing off the memorial gunshot. Many years ago, he was a volunteer little league coach and umpire – until the day one of the moms raked him over the coals for calling her son out at the plate.
“She came down and cussed me out,” he said. “She told me I was cheating and she made all sorts of accusations. I thought, 'that's it' and I was finished.”
Bill grew up in Indiana during the Great Depression and when he turned 17, a buddy talked him into enlisting in the military. Stationed at Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle, Bill worked as a flight engineer until retiring from the service. He still struggles with hearing loss because of his time working on jets.
“No one wore earplugs. No one thought about that back then,” he said.
While he and Polly raised two sons in the Seattle area, Bill went to work for the postal service. He spent the next 22 years as a letter carrier on Mercer Island and then in Kirkland, where he still runs into people he met while making the rounds. They tell him they miss talking to him; that everyone else seems to be in such a rush.
Bill and Polly then worked together for 10 years delivering magazines and greeting cards to stores, before finally retiring for good. Today, they enjoy a large extended family, a new dog, and their regular commitment to Hopelink.
“Once in awhile, we can't make it, and we feel bad,” Bill said. “This is important to us – being here every week.”
“They have been dedicated volunteers for more than a year, and we are very fortunate to have them,” he said. “They are a joy to work with.”