I just learned of the death last night of one of my heroes: Bill Weaver, Nashville businessman, civic leader, devoted-father and grandfather, loving-husband, philanthropist, friend to all he knew, and inspiration to all he encountered. Where does one start in describing someone who, while fighting the gradually debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis over the course of three decades, still lived his life with boundless enthusiasm and commitment to make his hometown and the world a better place for all?
Bill Weaver was a visionary — a social entrepreneur before the term was known. He saw opportunities for solutions and service where the rest of us merely saw problems. For example, he felt strongly that talented kids from financially-struggling homes should be offered the chance to access a pathway to educational opportunities available to similarly talented kids from affluent familes. He didn’t stop with sensing the need — he did something about it. He created not just a program called Time to Rise, but he helped create the entire eco-system necessary to identify, prepare and support the motivated, talented kids most likely to benefit from such a program.
Confined to a wheelchair — and he always had the latest model high-tech wheelchair — for the past two decades, he could not walk, but he still found ways to give wings to ideas. He willed them to fly — and they obediently flew. And because of that, many lives have been enriched and transformed. Even when he lost the ability to speak clearly, his ability to communicate was never lost. For he communicated with his heart. And with his love. And with his inspiration.
Over the next few days and weeks and for all of time, there will be stories told of the big things Bill Weaver did for others. So here’s a small story about something small he did, but that meant a lot to some folks I love. One Halloween when my children were still very tiny, we dropped by the large home on the hill where Bill and his wonderful wife, Nicky, lived. My son was about three or so, and in one of those kids-say-the-darndest-things moments, he marveled at how cool it must be for Mr. Weaver to have such a neat wheelchair. “Want to go for a ride?” asked Bill. Quickly handing his mom the trick-or-treat bag, my son scrambled into Bill’s lap for a ride around the bottom floor of the Weaver’s home. Then Mr. Weaver suggested my daughter and son try out the elevator, something they’d never seen in someone’s home.
Bill Weaver’s gesture and his warm glow helped forge my children’s perceptions of the amazing abilities possessed by those others may consider “disabled.” Until they out-grew trick-or-treating entirely, each Halloween my children’s first request was to go visit Mr. Weaver. It is the treat they will always associate with Halloween.
For my children, my wife and me, I’d like to express my admiration and appreciation for Bill Weaver’s most amazing life and our warmest condolences to Nicky, their children, Collins, Will and Craig and their families.