‘Flipping amazing’ Bill Pierson is Greater Napanee’s Senior of the Year

Bill Pierson (left) receives the Senior of the Year Award for 2023 from the Mayor of Napanee, Terry Richardson. Photo courtesy of Town of Greater Napanee.

Napanee’s Bill Pierson is a “flipping amazing” Senior and he now has the award to prove it.

Mayor Terry Richardson was visibly emotional while awarding the title of “Senior of The Year 2023” to Bill Pierson at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, July 11, 2023, calling the presentation, “probably the highlight of my tenure with this term of Council.”

Pierson has been a long-standing volunteer and active community member in the Greater Napanee region for decades, most notably as the founder of the Greater Napanee Gymnastics Club, an influential teacher at Napanee District Secondary School, a volunteer firefighter, a former Council member, and so much more, according to Richardson’s address to Council.

Richardson focused on Pierson’s commitment to the Gymnastics Club, which he began over 50 years ago, and continues to be involved in today as President at the age of 80.

As a child, Pierson took up gymnastics in programs at the YMCA. In 1967, when he began his teaching career at NDSS, he began a high school gymnastics team for both boys and girls, which he coached until 1981 when gymnastics was abandoned by the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association for boys. He continued with girls gymnastics until OFSAA discontinued girls gymnastics as well in 2019, noted Richardson.

Richardson added that during Pierson’s time running the high school program, he also launched a weekly community junior gymnastics program, seeking both to offer organized sports to youngsters in the community and to raise funds for purchasing new gymnastics equipment. 

In the 1990s, the demand for a local gymnastics club had grown. Pierson, along with the help from parents of the gymnasts, decided to move from a high school-based team and community recreational program to a full-fledged gymnastics club that was registered with Gymnastics Ontario. It took a full year to research and plan to make that transition. Under Pierson’s leadership, the Greater Napanee Gymnastics Club continued to expand and eventually moved to its current location at 25 Snow Road. 

Because of Pierson’s efforts, said Richardson, “The club grew and grew, and now serves over 500 children on an annual basis… Bill’s philosophy has always been that no child should miss out on an opportunity to participate… He is always willing to work with the families to provide options or alternative forms of payments, so that each child can participate in the joy of gymnastics.” Richardson added that the club has established a program for children with physical and cognitive challenges, so that they face no barriers to participation in the sport. 

“He has now seen a third generation of gymnasts coming through the club. He remembers everyone’s name and knows whose children they are… If you ask anyone in the town about Bill Pierson, they will smile and acknowledge the impact that Bill has had on this community over the years,” the Mayor enthused. “At the age of 80, Bill continues to give 110 percent to everything that he does. Proving that life doesn’t have to slow down in retirement!”

A still photo from a video captures Bill Pierson performing a perfect backflip on his 74th birthday. Photo courtesy Napanee Gymnastics Club Facebook Page.

Richardson quipped, “Bill would be ‘flipping amazed’ to learn that he this the recipient of this award. See the video of Bill doing a backflip at the age of 74.”

“If every community had a Bill Pierson, this world would be a so much better place to live, and I say that from the deepest part of my heart,” finished the Mayor. “I know probably the toughest thing he has done in his 80 years is to come here tonight and receive this award because that’s not who Bill Pierson is, but we’re going to make him come up and we’re going to give him the award anyway.”

Pierson’s words were emotional but light-hearted as he addressed the attendees. “The last time I spoke in front of the Council, I made a hash of it because I was very emotional,” said the former Councillor, “and I’m damned near that way now. So, I just don’t want to get that way.”

Pierson said that there are many ways to be engaged in the community beyond being a councillor. “There is a mess of stuff you can do, and it gave me more time for things that I have really enjoyed doing.”

“You know, being an old fart has its advantages,” Pierson joked, “because you give your opinions sometimes when they’re not really that wanted, but you can do it anyway. Because they can always say, ‘Oh don’t listen to that old fart; he just rambles on.’”

“Really the one thing I missed more than anything… I miss being on those red trucks… I enjoyed those red trucks,” he laughed, indicating the current Fire Chief, Bill Hammond. “Now I can just watch and occasionally, the guys, when they go by my house, still give a little toot on the air horn… Just for old times sake, you have to let me ride on the back seat just for the heck of it! Just because I’m old.”

Richardson thanked Pierson once again for all his good service and assured him that a firetruck ride-along would be in his very near future.

To watch Richardson’s entire presentation and Pierson’s reaction, you can check out the Town of Napanee YouTube Channel for this and every meeting of Council.

To see a “flipping amazing” senior of the year do a backflip at age 74, you can check out the Facebook page for the Greater Napanee Gymnastics Club.

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