Bill Derby is a 78-year-old gentleman who has lived a life of service. In 1958, after the death of his five-year-old daughter, Heather, Derby promised his Higher Power that he would be a servant the rest of his life. Derby, a former Navy serviceman, is an inspiration to all in the Council Bluffs area. He has been a volunteer at Christian Home Association – Children’s Square U.S.A. for over ten years. He also volunteers as a Youth Ministry Leader at Children’s Square, a volunteer for the Spiritual Life Program, and an art instructor in the recreational therapy program.
In the spring of 1989, Derby came to Children’s Square as a volunteer art instructor when they were still an alternative school. He is still a part of the Children’s Square family and they are a part of the Council Bluff’s Public School District. Another Heather came into his classroom at Children’s Square. This young lady had been severely beaten, abused, and abandoned on the streets of Chicago at the age of eight. She was in such a condition that she was unable to stand erect. Because of her past, she was afraid of men and initially was afraid of him. Her peers, teacher, and Derby, still supported her through her “rehabilitation” and Heather was finally able to gain self-confidence and a surrogate family.
His volunteer service does not stop at Children’s Square. He also works with VODEC, which is a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates and teaches daily living by placing clients with varying mental deficiencies in productive working positions. Derby worked with a group that painted faces on Halloween pumpkins for clients and became known as Mr. Pumpkin. He is involved in building a Second World War memorial with the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He also prepared silver point drawings of endangered animals and birds for Hitchcock Nature Center’s Loess Hills project.
One day he passed a neighbor’s yard where a dead willow tree had been cut; later Derby took out a knife and carved a cane. Since that day, he has created more than 300 canes, giving over 200 away to charitable organizations and those in need who appreciate the assistance and the art.