Bill Graff’s volunteerism at the Norwood Health Dept.
Prior to becoming the Norwood Health Commissioner in June of 2009, I was the Public Health Preparedness Division Head and Epidemiologist for the Butler County for 7 years. That is where I first learned of these two amazing Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, Bill and Vivian Graff. Mr. and Mrs. Graff volunteered for and participated in every public health emergency exercise that they could. Their efforts were not limited to Norwood as they often volunteered in various health jurisdictions throughout the Tri-State area. I remember thinking, “Wow, I wish I had a whole bunch of Bill and Vivian Graffs to work with in the Butler County Medical Reserve Corps during an emergency.”
As fate would have it, I would indeed respond to a major public health event alongside Mr. and Mrs. Graff. However, it wasn’t in Butler County but rather it was in Bill and Vivian’s beloved Norwood. How fortunate I was and I soon became the envy of many of my colleagues in other local health departments; Bill and Vivian’s first priority was to the citizens of Norwood.
Prior to Norwood’s implementation of a mass vaccination campaign against H1N1 influenza, I asked if Mr. and Mrs. Graff would sit down in a meeting with me. In this meeting, Mr. Graff quickly laid down his first and only ground rule with me as he said, “You call us ‘Bill’ and ‘Vivian’.” This was followed with Bill saying “Pam, we will help you with whatever you need.” And indeed they did.
Bill and Vivian worked alongside the staff of the Norwood Health Department at every single vaccination clinic we held at our office location. Responding to H1N1 was a marathon not a sprint. We grew fatigued, and when Bill and Vivian walked in the door, we knew that the Calvary was there.
As time progressed, Bill took on a fatherly persona with me. He was my cheerleader and would say, “You are doing a great job, kiddo!” and “Don’t worry, I am here for you.” And he truly was. Bill even celebrated his 65th birthday at an H1N1 clinic at the Norwood Health Department. I only had time to make him a box cake but of course, he told me in true gentleman fashion, that it was delicious! He was ever so gracious.
H1N1 slowed down and I did not get to see as much of Bill and Vivian. However, Bill and I became “facebook friends,” so we stayed in touch. Our friendship grew, and he always had something positive or funny to say to me when I was blue. His last comment to me came on my birthday on Friday, September 10, 2010, and I was not really in the celebrating mood. Bill said something like this, “look at it this way, you are 19 with 20 years of experience!” Classic Bill Graff!
Bill, I really am going to miss you! I know that God is saying to you, " Well done, good and faithful servant."
Norwood City Health Department