By Barbara Mellon
Even if you’ve only been in Andes for a short time, the chances are good that you have run across Bill Drew. Often found running his business from the counter of Woody’s, a bit disheveled and treating the telephone as his own, Bill does his best to know everyone and everything going on around town.
But he is much more than the guy driving a backhoe down Main Street, looking for a home for a load of split wood or aged manure, plowing driveway after driveway during a snowstorm, or directing a fleet of lawn mowers from Margaretville to Bovina.
Born in Maspeth, Queens, Bill developed his love of country life early. He proudly states that he “never spent a summer in the city,” instead travelling upstate with his mother, Eleanor, as she worked at various Girl Scout camps. In 1974 the Drew family moved to Andes, a place Bill intends to call home for the rest of his life.
Attending Andes Central School after 7 years of Catholic school was quite a change. Bill recounts a humorous start when, upon being called on to answer a question, he stood up to respond. To the giggles of the other students, his teacher, Mrs. Jackson, explained that he could remain seated while answering her query. At ACS he now had organized sports available to him and enjoyed participating in baseball, soccer, basketball and track, lettering in many of them. In Queens, there were 100 students in his grade, divided into 2 sections. Joining a class that consisted of only 13 at graduation allowed for a one-on-one education he appreciated. And of course the best change, according to Bill, was “getting away from the nuns so you didn’t get your ass beat.” That’s Bill; very frank.
His education didn’t end with ACS. Bill received an Associate’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Delhi and then went on to SUNY Binghamton where he earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. While pursuing these degrees he also joined the National Guard, spending summers in South Carolina and Missouri for his Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training as an engineer. Attaining the rank of E6 Staff Sergeant, Bill retired with 24 years of service after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The training he received in college as well as in the Guard has served him well over the years. Much of the work of Tri-Town Services, the company he started in 1988, revolves around equipment, and his background in engineering helps him understand the machinery he relies on, the mowers, backhoes, tractors, snow plows and brush hogs. Reminding me a bit of Larry, Darryl and Darryl of the 1980s sit-com Newhart, Bill is always on the lookout for more ways to serve his clientele, offering services such as mowing and all forms of landscaping, plowing and shoveling snow, brush hogging, pre-heating homes for weekend residents, checking houses during the owner’s absence, trapping rodents, light carpentry, trucking and more. You name it and Bill will likely do it.
But Bill’s eyes and ears are open to more than business possibilities. With a heart bigger than most, he watches out for family, friends and neighbors. When an elderly couple had an accident on Main Street, it was Bill who took it upon himself to see that they got home safely after all the emergency vehicles and onlookers left. During the grand opening of Price Chopper in Delhi, most noticed the wide variety of merchandise and all the shiny newness. It was Bill who noticed the wheelchairs they had available and immediately thought of me, housebound at the time after surgery. How delighted I was when he showed up at my door to take me to the new store, pushing me around in one of those chairs. And it was Bill who daily looked in on a neighbor suffering health issues, fitting into his schedule numerous trips to doctors and hospitals, worrying if he hadn’t shown up when and where he was expected.
As a teen, he portrayed a Calico Indian during the Town’s celebration of the 1976 bicentennial and, to this day, he exhibits a pride in Andes that is refreshing to see. While some may consider it his job, it is important to Bill that the hamlet always looks its best for special occasions. Before Memorial Day, Community Day and similar holiday weekends, his mowers are out putting a spit shine on the lawns and yards of his clients. He especially enjoys maintaining Ballantine Park; while he gets paid for his work there, he doesn’t get paid to care, and care he does. Bill marches in the parades, sets out the large signs announcing Community Day, supports the fundraising dinners held by local organizations and can be seen at just about any event going on in town.
Bill tells me that “one of the best things he ever did” was to marry Marylou Bendik; calling her “truly my better half.” Specializing in early childhood education, Mary teaches pre-kindergarten in Manhattan. Together they enjoy summer trips to places such as Niagara Falls and attending concerts at the Palace in Albany and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
If you know Bill, you have to know Avalanche, his furry black Chow. A great dog who enjoys going on adventures, Avalanche loves greeting people in town with his wagging tail. Sometimes called A2, he is doing his best to fill the hole left in Bill’s heart after the tragic death of the original Avalanche (A1). A Chow mix, A1 was found during a Valentine’s Day snowstorm by a customer of Bill’s who asked him to take the dog. After some hesitation, the two spent the next 16 hours together in the truck. From that day forward, they were constant companions. A free spirit who loved to wander the valley where Bill lives, Avalanche climbed, unnoticed, into the back seat of a car prior to a summer rainstorm a couple of years ago. The rains came, vehicle doors were slammed shut and sadly it was too late when Bill located the precious friend he thought was roaming the neighborhood as usual. You can still hear the sadness in his voice when Bill talks about Avalanche, who was buried in his beloved valley.
An avid player of darts, horseshoes and pool, Bill fully enjoys the life he is so thankful to still have. Now cancer-free, he is grateful to the National Bank of Delaware County. It was during one of the screening clinics held at the bank that his illness was discovered. He urges all residents to take advantage of this service; with early detection many diseases can be effectively treated or cured.
Bill Drew. Truly a man about Andes.