He's making sure his time here is well-spent

SPIRIT of Sharing

December 16, 2003|By Susan Reimer

Editor's note: This is one in a series of occasional holiday-season features highlighting people in the Baltimore area who exemplify the spirit of The Sun's annual Spirit of Sharing Holiday Campaign.

RETIREMENT AGREES with Bill Lovelace. He's been at it for 17 years now, after leaving the federal government at 50, and at 67, he is the picture of prosperous good health.

But it is that prosperity and that good health that seem to work at Lovelace like an itch on his conscience. As a result, he has become a kind of maximum volunteer - the word "tireless" pales. It is as if he is trying to pass on all that God has given him.

Lovelace, who lives in Annapolis with Rose, his wife of more than 40 years, works with a list of charities so long it is fatiguing just to consider.

He donates money generously, and he is on dozens of committees, but he is also a hammer-and-nails volunteer, laying tile, fixing roofs, building mission churches, cooking and serving meals to the homeless and installing safety equipment for seniors.

"I wouldn't want to think I spent my life on this Earth and lived it entirely for myself," he says. "I don't think that's what we are here for."

But Lovelace is uneasy about the attention his volunteering has brought him, as if he is violating Jesus' admonition that his good works need only be known by his father in heaven. But he is too polite to refuse the request for an interview.

"Maybe there is a reason for this," he says. "Perhaps it will encourage others to contribute - financially or physically or both."

Lovelace's spiritual roots are in Calvary United Methodist Church in Annapolis, and he does plenty of administrative and volunteer work at the church. But he says his prayer life has led him to take up the other opportunities to serve that have come his way.

He travels with missions to Central America and Appalachia building churches and medical facilities. Closer to home, he works with Arundel Habitat for Humanity, building houses and helping to select families.

As a member of the Kiwanis Club of Annapolis, he rings bells over Salvation Army kettles at Christmas time and works with the Department of Aging installing safety equipment in the homes of seniors and those with physical disabilities.

His senior softball team has traveled the world promoting the sport and competed in the Senior Olympics.

He works at the Light House Shelter for the homeless in Annapolis, preparing and serving meals on Wednesday nights with other members of the Kiwanis, and was part of the effort to keep the financially strapped shelter open with proceeds from a gospel concert.

He also helps his church as it takes its turn, along with other churches, providing warm beds on cold nights for homeless men.

But it is his deeply personal feelings for the work of hospice volunteers that bring Lovelace on this pre-holiday morning to the offices of Hospice of the Chesapeake in Millersville for an open house.

"Bill is quiet and dignified, but he is also outgoing and very upbeat," says Erwin Abrams, president and CEO of Hospice of the Chesapeake. "He and Rose just like working hard for nonprofits. Bill is one of those wonderful folks who has in abundance the uniquely American trait to give back, to volunteer."

Lovelace is a transplanted Texan who came East to work for the federal government when he was just 18. Before he retired, he had earned a college degree and had moved from agency to agency, computerizing.

He worked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, the Bureau of the Census, the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State before he took early retirement in 1986 and went into private consulting.

He and Rose, who more recently retired from NASA, relocated from the Washington suburbs to Annapolis for the last years of their working life, and that is the community that benefits from Lovelace's spare time, high energy and his great faith.

As many have, Lovelace came to cherish the hospice gift of time and comfort during death because it had touched him so personally. His brother, Bob, his mother and father had all died in the quiet companionship of a hospice worker.

He and his wife were on the way to see his ill father in Arizona in 1999, but he died before they arrived. When they got there, the Lovelaces learned that a hospice worker never left his father's side during the final hours so he would not die alone.

Deeply affected by this, Bill and his wife decided on the plane ride home that they would find a way to get involved. So he showed up in Abrams' office and asked how they could help.

"They helped fund our patio at Hospice House in Linthicum," said Abrams. "And they have single-handedly funded the clinical nursing program so our staff can get additional training."

Lovelace works on the Hospice Regatta, too, and he and his wife funded a prize for the winning skipper who carries a hospice worker as a crew member.

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