I featured Billie in our Community Spotlight in June of 2016. She recently passed away on August 9th. And between those dashes, despite her illness, she continued to tirelessly advocate for Belle Vista Association. So it is profoundly fitting that someone who dedicated her life to her neighborhood, was recently honored through a dedication of a bridge in her name.
Neighborhood resident Connie Seipel reached out to Mike Green, Public Information Office for the Allen County Commissioners. Her husband George is the Secretary of the Belle Vista Board. She states, “Everyone kept saying we need to do this, so I finally picked up the phone. I’ve known Billie forever and always supported her efforts.”
On September 18, the request became reality and The Billie Rykard Memorial Bridge over the Fairfield Ditch was dedicated during a ceremony in the early evening, attended by a group of family members and neighbors as well as the three Fort Wayne County Commissioners, Nelson Peters, Linda Bloom and Therese Brown. Each of them spoke from the heart, warmly recalling late night phone calls they received at home as Billie doggedly followed up on an issue, as well as the annual Christmas card greetings she sent.
Over the years Billie, and her husband Paul, funneled $1 million in city and county dollars into the neighborhood toward resurfacing streets, replacing storm drains and sewers as well as repairing the Fairfield Ditch. Billie also spearheaded a petition to save the Waynedale Post Office by collecting more than 1000 signatures. There is the triangle plot where Belle Vista and Kimberly Road intersect that was transformed from a weedy, littered area into a lovely landscaped space. A sign is placed there honoring her husband Paul.
Jackie Gay, a board member and close friend of Billie’s for close to 20 years said, “Billie loved her neighborhood and treasured her friends. She went out of her way to welcome new residents and share neighborhood information with them. Always going above and beyond what was required for her position as Association President, she let people know that she cared.”
Billie knew everything that was going on in the neighborhood, from reminding people to store their trash cans, to the street sweeping schedule to the work on the bridge and everything in-between. The Belle Vista Board will long be feeling the effects of the big hole left by Billie’s passing. Being ever prepared, she had diligently designated each board member responsible for a particular event or activity to ensure the association transitioned seamlessly. However, hers are really big shoes to fill. As Connie fondly remembers, “Billie was the squeaky wheel that got things done.”
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