LAKESIDE — Balloons and posters mark the festive occasion for veteran city employee Billy Hill, who's retiring after 30 years.
"Officially retired," states one paper, colored brightly in red, yellow and green.
These and others are right up front normally where city councilors would sit. Not bad for a retiring employee. Another reads "Officially retired."
Lakeside Public Works Director Dennis Langley was among those on hand to congratulate Billy Hill. Langley presented the retiree with plaque.
Yet Hill is so well loved in the community that these and balloons are just some of symbols of compassion for him.
At the beginning of Hill's party, one man introduces himself, shaking his hand.
"Billy, Mike. I don't think we've ever met. I heard a story that you never missed a day," said Mike Powell of Reedsport. The two chatted a moment and then Hill visited with other well wishers.
Hill moved to Lakeside when he was 18. He's 69 now and turns 70 July 18.
"I cleaned all of city hall, all the offices," he said. Plus Hill mopped the Lakeside Senior Center kitchen and bathrooms. "I helped at the cemetery if need be."
The Lakeside resident started with the city Oct. 1, 1988, hearing about the job from former Mayor Pat Winters.
"She said 'Billy how's your job going at Goodwill (in North Bend). She said 'Have your boss give me a call.'" He'd discussed the job opportunity with her at Tugman State Park.
Many days, he'd hitchhike to his job in Lakeside from North Bend.
"I liked her because of this job. She was a good person. Yeah she was a good city leader," Hill said.
Gary Freelund and his spouse, Pat, were among those paying tribute to Hill. Freelund was born in what was once called Marshfield, now of course known as Coos Bay. The former longshoreman's known Hill about 50 years.
"Billy is really good," Freelund said in a phone interview July 5. "In fact he's coming up this morning (to visit)."
Freelund used to pick up Hill as needed and admires Hill's work ethic.
"He's as honest as the day is long," said the retiree, who's lived in the community 77 years. "Everybody knew Billy and he got rides pretty easily."
Visitors gathered around a small table at Lakeside City Hall, gathering a bit of spaghetti, barbequed chicken, salad, chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese or any number of good treats as Hill recalled his current and former city colleagues.
"I've met nice people. I've liked every one of them," Hill said.