When Alexandria residents
think of what gives
Rosemont its charm, they
often think of the quiet neighborhood’s mature trees, its homes with front porches and the local farmers’ market. When the families of Rosemont who live within walking distance of Maple Street think of what makes their neighborhood so unique and cherished, they think not so much of houses and trees, but, rather of one of their neighbors. The man who touches the lives of so many of these families, and especially their children, is the affable, octogenarian: Bill Schultze.
Bill, as all his neighbors call him, turned 80 last week. He has been a fixture on the corner of Maple Street and Russell Road for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, you would have to go back to 1926; this was the year Schulte’s father built the family’s brick colonial that fronts Russell Road. It will surprise many of his neighbors to learn that Bill and his wife of 52 years, Lucie, moved from the Rosemont house out to Springfield soon after they were married. Although Springfield is where he raised his own family, clearly Bill’s heart was still in Rosemont. They moved back nearly 25 years ago into the home of his childhood.
Since that time, Bill has become an icon of Rosemont. He has touched the lives of so many of this group, especially the children of Rosemont with his grandfatherly ways. Perhaps it is Bill’s relationships with own family and grandchildren that give him a love for the local children.
Bill and Lucie raised five children and have 15 grandchildren. This third generation of Schultzes light up when talking about their grandfather. Anna, one of his daughters, speaks of the softness and caring nature of her father and the special relationship he has with his grandchildren. She then laughs as she recalls long ago when her father would goad one of her boyfriends into “playing a little tennis.” Two hours later they would return from the court; the boyfriend embarrassed and Anna’s 60-year old father smirking as he had shown up yet another young suitor of his daughters.
This strong bond with his own family has given Bill a bond with the neighborhood children legendary on the streets of Rosemont. On any sunny day Bill can be seen pushing a child along the sidewalk of Russell Road in his 20-year old plastic green car, carrying a neighbor’s infant, mesmerizing a group of 6-year olds with stories or handing out Fig Newtons and popsicles. There is not a child within biking distance of his home who does not light up and smile when they see the “grandfather of Rosemont” walking towards them.
John Leary has known Bill all his life. His father built the house next door in the 1920s. John and his wife, Maureen, know well of Bill’s charm. They consider him a part of their family history. Maureen says: “many people I meet at the park already recognize my three sons from seeing them with Bill. It is hard to overstate the affection that everyone has for Bill; we know how lucky we are to live next door to him and Lucie.”
A testament to Bill’s aura in the Rosemont neighborhood was the surprise party that was thrown for him last weekend to celebrate his 80th birthday. Maple Street was closed off on both ends and was cluttered with neighbors and their children who came to celebrate this special day. The children rode their bikes and scooters, played in the street and weaved through the yards, popsicles in hand. Nearly 100 people had all come to wish a happy birthday to this irreplaceable person in their lives.
As the party was ending, my three-year old daughter, Ella, was asked whom she wanted to marry. The second man that Ella named, right after her brother, was Bill. To use one of his unique phrases: Bill is “loved all the way up to the top.”
— Bill Turner