Written by Angela Barbuti, Manhasset@antonnews.com Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:00
Everyone in Munsey Park has gotten a wave and a smile from Wilson “Willie” Mead, no matter what job he is in the middle of. “If you give a smile, you’re going to get one back,” the 56-year-old said. He has been working for the Village of Munsey Park as a utility worker since 1990, and when he retires this September, a void will be felt around the village. Willie is a fixture in the community and is always around to help you out. When the seasons change, Willie can be found mowing the lawns, blowing leaves, picking up branches or plowing snow. As maintenance worker, he is up early to raise the American flag at numerous sites in Munsey Park, which holds special meaning to this Marine veteran. He works side by side with Jim McInnis, labor supervisor. During Super Storm Sandy, Meade protected the Pekin ducks in Copley Pond and got the village back on track after the storm.
No one would be surprised to learn that he has volunteered to read to the students of Munsey Park School because he cares about the kids and the community. He read Elsie the Snowplow to entertain them and give them tips for safety in the snow.
Mead would tell you the residents of Munsey Park are the reason he enjoys getting up in the morning to come to work. He considers many of them true friends. They will be in his heart as he retires to Georgia. He will be back to visit though, so make sure when you see him around the village, you give him a big wave in return.
I spoke with him recently about his retirement.
Do you remember your first day on the job?
Yeah. It was July 1, 1990. They had me mow around the school. It was funny because I came with a t-shirt and jeans; they sent me right to Goldman Brothers for uniforms. Mayor Arthur Schultheiss said, “We’re keeping this one,” and I knew I was here to stay.
Are you still in touch with Schultheiss’ family?
Oh yeah. Arthur was a very intelligent guy. He loved me because he could send me out to do a job and he knew I’d do it to the best of my ability. He had the same regard for everybody who worked here. Everybody was our family.
What were you doing before you started here in Munsey Park?
Believe it or not, I was a masons laborer.
In a typical day, what are some jobs you can be found doing?
Everything that pertains to this village as far as painting, road repair, landscaping, pruning trees, making signs, repairing signs, and changing street light bulbs.
Are you from New York originally?
No. Sacramento, California. I was a surfer. [Laughs] Then I moved to Pennsylvania when I was 16; then to New York in 1982.
What are the negative aspects of your job?
The 1995-1996 snow season and Sandy. It’s not fun standing outside in 80-90 mile an hour gusts trying to get the roads clear in case of an emergency.
Were you scared during the hurricane?
Oh yeah. Very much so. We had trouble coming down Abbey Road because of downed trees: we were trying to get cones and caution tape. I pulled out the tape and a 95 mile-an-hour gust came and took the tape right out of my hand. We were hearing trees pop and crack behind us, so we ran into the park to avoid the falling trees. We ended up working non-stop 55 hours.
Did you ever fear for your life at work?
Yes, during Sandy.
Describe your relationship with the police officers here in Manhasset.
We’ve helped them out many times. For instance, one time when some burglars were trying get away and we were working on Abbey Road we spotted the getaway car and alerted the police.
Security is a big part of your job.
We try to help. If we see newspapers piled up on the driveway, we pick them up and put them behind the door. We try to tell people, when they leave the outside lights on all day, you are saying, “Hey, I’m not home!” and we tell them to put them on a timer or leave them off.
What changes have you seen in the neighborhood?
I’ve seen a lot of kids grow up, graduate Munsey Park School and finish high school. One of them is in the Naval Academy now, another’s becoming a Navy Seal. And these are kids who would wave and say, “Hi Mr. Mead! Hi Mr. Willie!”
You even give classes to the younger kids on flag etiquette.
To the Daisy’s and Cubbies. I really like that. One kid came home and told his dad to replace their worn-out flag.
What are your future plans?
We’re moving to a house in Georgia from our front porch you look across the pond and see the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Will you come back to visit?
Absolutely. I have too many friends here. I told a lot of them I’d be sending them peaches for Christmas. [Laughs]
Describe your relationship with the people you have met here.
I have a lot of friends here, and I don’t mean “sunshine friends”; they’re here for the good and the bad times. A couple of them came to my daughter’s wedding.
When Jim and I are out there plowing, it’s amazing how many people will stop us and say, “Hey, you need a cup of coffee? You want a sandwich?
When Wilson Mead retires this September 26, he will be missed.