Weekly Feature

2014-02-26 / Front Page

Park renamed in honor of fallen soldier

by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor

Wilson Wilson A park on Hopkins Road will now have a new name to permanently remember a soldier who was killed in action nearly two years ago.

(See editorial on page four)

The Town Board, during its meeting on Monday, established the former Margaret Louise Park as “Billy Wilson Park on Hopkins Road” in honor of Army Staff Sgt. William “Billy” Wilson III.

The park is located at Hopkins Road at Randwood Drive, near Williamsville North High School.

A resident of Getzville, Wilson, 27, was a squad leader assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade headquartered in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

He died March 26, 2012, from gunshot wounds inflicted by an alleged member of the Afghan local police in Paktika province, Afghanistan. Wilson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Wilson’s parents, in addition to friends and military veterans, attended the meeting to show their support for the resolution, which was initiated by Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette.

The matter was co-sponsored by Supervisor Barry Weinstein and Council Members Mark Manna, Ramona Popowich and Steven Sanders.

“Recently, residents approached the board to request this because of Billy’s use of the park when he was growing up,” Marlette said. “The Town Board is honored to be put in this position and have the ability to do this.”

Prior to the vote on the resolution, town resident Bill Sullivan said he hoped that a formal dedication ceremony could be held on Memorial Day concerning the renaming of the park.

“What better way to honor those who have served than to rename the park in honor of Billy Wilson,” he said.

Wilson’s parents, William and Kimberly, said it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that they became aware of the community’s desire to name the park in remembrance of their son.

“We are so very proud,” Kimberly Wilson said. “It’s overwhelming. The lives he’s touched — it’s amazing. This really took us by surprise.”

William Wilson said the renaming is especially touching because his son’s 29th birthday would have been on Friday, Feb. 28.

In June, the state Legislature approved a measure to rename a portion of Interstate 990 as the “Staff Sergeant William R. Wilson III Memorial Highway.”

The renaming of the former Margaret Louise Park was initiated in December, when Supervisor Barry Weinstein sought to re-brand the park by using the name of the road as part of the title of the park.

In another matter, a resolution sponsored by Manna to save a school in the Sweet Home School District was declared out of order by Weinstein.

A district task force and Superintendent Anthony Day recently recommended closing Heritage Heights Elementary School, 2545 Sweet Home Road, as a way to eliminate operational and support costs to assist in the development of future budgets.

Weinstein said Manna’s measure was primarily out of order because it resolved to send Day a letter signed by the Town Board detailing its position of being against the closure.

He said Manna could resubmit the resolution without the portion concerning the letter as a measure at the board’s next meeting.

“I think it’s important to go on the record on this,” Manna said. “We are not meddling with the school. It is completely appropriate for one decision-making body to tell another decision-making body what they are opposed to.”

In addition to Weinstein, Sanders also said the resolution was not in the jurisdiction of the Town Board.

“We have to separate out what our personal concerns are,” Sanders said. “It is inappropriate for the Town Board to have any official decision on this.”

Immediately following the board’s discussion of Manna’s measure regarding Heritage Heights, the council approved a resolution by Sanders to oppose the closing of the Social Security Office at 3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.

Manna, who was the only member to vote against the resolution, said the measure was similar to the one he initiated about Heritage Heights.

Nonetheless, the Town Board approved directing the Town Clerk to forward Sanders’ approved resolution to area legislators, including Reps. Brian Higgins and Chris Collins and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in addition to county officials.

The next meeting of the Town Board will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 3, in the Council Chambers at the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.

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