Billy Schulz is one of those people who is well-known in my hometown of Kingsport, TN. Not for reasons you might think, but for how he made people feel.
Billy worked at Food City for years. If you went to Food City (most people did) you knew Billy. If Billy was working, he was smiling, and people took notice. I remember specifically, probably 10 years ago, when I was in the check-out line at the grocery store, and Billy bought me a rose for Valentine’s Day. It brought tears to my eyes. That’s just one of the many things Billy will be remembered for.
Billy had Down Syndrome. He passed away last week peacefully at the young age of 56.
Although I did not know Billy outside Food City, the little interaction I had with him many years ago left enough of an imprint on my heart reflect back on his inspirational life.
Billy probably never knew the impact he had on anyone’s life in Kingsport. He probably never knew how his sweet smile brightened the day of those who came in for a carton of eggs, a gallon of milk or to rent a movie. And he probably never knew the time he gave me a rose while checking out at the grocery store some 10 years ago today would still bring a smile to my face.
I heard about Billy’s passing on Facebook through a friend. My heart sunk because our community lost a great man, but it also sang because I know he is in a place we can never imagine, making everyone there smile as well.
I can only hope Billy’s family knows how much Kingsport adored him, how many days he brightened and how much he will be missed.
You never know what little act, smile or kind word can have on someone’s life. Billy life was truly a testament to that. Just take a look at the 32+comments on the post.
Billy Schulz, 56. We are going to miss you.
William Robert Schulz
Kingsport — William Robert “Billy” Schulz, 56, born January 28, 1956, died peacefully on September 2, 2012, after a period of declining health.
Billy was a beloved and influential member of his family, and an ambassador of goodness wherever he went. His cheerfulness and optimism contributed to the communities in which he worked and worshipped.
In April, Billy received his ten-year pin for his work as a bagger at Food City, where he worked at Eastman Road and Colonial Heights branches. He was an active member of First Broad Street United Methodist Church, where he returned their warm welcome to Kingsport by welcoming church members frequently as an usher. He belonged to TeamMates and loved singing at One Thing.
Prior to moving to Kingsport in 2001, Billy worked in Cullowhee, NC, at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library for 21 years as a security book handler. He was a member of Sylva’s First United Methodist Church, where he was a regular usher for over two decades. Billy graduated from Cullowhee High School in 1977.
Born with Down Syndrome, Billy’s special needs directed the career of his mother, Jane B. Schulz. Billy and Jane inspired thousands of people during their teamwork together, modeling for all how much can be accomplished in life with determination, humor, love, and courage. Jane wrote her memoir, “Grown Man Now,” about her life with Billy, who has been a devoted and generous caretaker to his mother in these later years.
From the Office of the Chancellor, Western Carolina University:
“In recognition of Mr. Schulz’s achievements, service and cultural contributions to the betterment of society, he was scheduled to receive an honorary degree, a Doctor of Humane Letters, from Western Carolina University alongside his mother, Dr. Jane B. Schulz. The award honors Mr. Schulz for not only developing skills, talents and creativity beyond his expectations but also courageously sharing his experiences in presentations at community, university, regional and national events to help dispel negative stereotypes of people who have disabilities and encourage all to seek their full potential. The honor will be bestowed posthumously during WCU’s fall commencement exercises on Dec. 15.”
A music, television and movie buff, Billy created an impressive collection of recordings, and enjoyed discussing these topics and telling jokes. He was a complex and spiritual person; his love and concern for others were boundless. His deep, abiding, and long-lasting relationships with others were inspirational and far-reaching. His loss is keenly felt by Billy’s communities and family. Surviving him are his mother; two brothers, John and Tom Schulz, and his sister Mary de Wit; their spouses, Dekie, Sheila, and Jos; Billy’s niece, Carrie Schulz; and his nephews, Paul (Edna), John Robert (Christine), and Isaac Schulz; and Daniel and Warren de Wit.
A memorial service for Billy will be held at First Broad Street UMC of Kingsport on Saturday, September 8, at 3:00 p.m. with a reception following. Memorial contributions may be made to: The Jane Schulz Scholarship Fund / Western Carolina University / 401 Robinson Admin. Bldg. / Cullowhee, NC 28723; or to the Billy Schulz Memorial Prayer Garden Fund at First Broad Street UMC / 100 E. Church Circle / Kingsport TN 37660.