×

Toy Fund: Remembering a man who ‘loved kids’

  • William "Bill" Wanczyk, Sr. loved children and was looking forward to having some of his own grandchildren, according to his family. Wanczyk, 55, was struck and killed while waiting for a bus in Amherst in November 2016. Submitted photo

  • William "Bill" Wanczyk, Sr. loved children and was looking forward to having some of his own grandchildren, according to his family. Wanczyk, 55, was struck and killed while waiting for a bus in Amherst in November 2016. Submitted photo

  • In an undated photo William "Bill" Wanczyk, Sr. poses with a birthday cake. Wanczyk, 55, was struck and killed while waiting for a bus in Amherst in November 2016. Submitted photo



For the Gazette 
Friday, December 01, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — William “Bill” Wanczyk, Sr. loved the holidays, and those who knew him remember his excitement when getting together to celebrate with his extended family — and especially his excitement to see children happily opening their Christmas presents. 

Shirley and Robert Charette, of 25 Stilson Ave. in Florence, cherish those memories of Bill, who died tragically last November after he was struck by a speeding truck while waiting at an Amherst bus stop. Bill was 55 years old. 

The Charettes first met Bill in 1969, when Shirley had him as a student in her second grade class at the Bridge Street School. From her living room, Shirley recalled the young, sweet Bill.

“It was my first year teaching. He was a cute kid, Billy. He was a Boy Scout always wearing the little blue uniform,” Shirley said. “His sister would become my daughter-in-law’s mom.”

Even after growing older, Shirley said Bill would come and say hello while he picked up his younger sister, Susan. Susan would later give birth to the future wife of the Charettes’ son, Christopher. So, one of Shirley’s first students became part of the family. 

Throughout the years, Shirley and Robert would see Bill on Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Bill had two children of his own, but it was always important to him to make sure all the kids were happy.

“He had been a firefighter, and the first gift he gave to our grandson, Jack, was this beautiful firetruck that the younger one now plays with a lot,” Shirley said. “It was the little kids he was always crazy about.” 

The Charettes were devastated when the warm man who always had a one-liner to crack would no longer be present during holidays –– or on his birthday, which he shared with Shirley. 

“We still miss him. We still get together on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and it’s just like there’s an empty seat there,” Shirley said. “He was always there. He was always there.” 

After Bill passed away, Robert, who also taught Bill when he was in junior high school, decided that the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund would be a fitting charity to donate to in Bill’s name, and donated $25 in memory of Bill in 2016. 

Bill himself was a giver, and Robert said that he plans on donating again in memory of him.

“He would be so happy,” Shirley said. “It’s because he loved kids so much, so it’s something he would be so thankful for, that someone would donate money in his name to help some kids.”

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the toy fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers to families for each child ages 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children and Families at 220 Russell St. in Hadley verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers. Most families who receive assistance are referred by social service agencies. Applications are due Monday.

The Toy Fund provides certificates redeemable at participating local retailers to eligible families who can use them to buy holiday gifts at participating stores through Dec. 31.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette at 115 Conz St. in Northampton, 01060, or made online through Gazettenet at toyfund.gazettenet.com/. Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.