When 93-year-old Bill Heath found out that the Daffodil Valley Sports Complex was going to be renamed after him, the first thought he had was for others.
Heath, a long-time member of the Sumner Rotary Club, first worked on building the sports complex in December 1989. While he was a big part of constructing it, there were countless others who helped.
“It was truly a community project,” Heath said during an Aug. 16 ceremony where the new sign was unveiled. “Nobody that I asked for help ever turned (this project) down. It was impossible without everyone else here.”
The ceremony gathered together Rotarians, community members and donors for the unveiling and an accompanying lunch. The new sign reads “Bill Heath Sports Complex.”
1,884 Number of total donors for the Daffodil Valley Sports Complex
Jerry Vandenberg, a member of Sumner Rotary for ten years, remembered three handwritten spiral notebooks stuffed full with to-do lists and contact information that Heath documented from the start of the project.
“This wouldn’t have happened without him,” Vandenberg said. “He gave us a gift of leadership and example. If you have a good project, people will pitch in and help.”
And quite a few people pitched in. The project took about ten years to finish, and by the end, Heath had documented a list of more than 1,800 contributors. He broke the contributors down into four main groups. There were 342 businesses and organizations that donated, 29 grants and foundations and ten “in memory of” donations.
The largest group of contributors were individual donors, weighing in at 1,503, which is almost 80 percent of donations that the project received.
Bill Pugh,Public Works Director for the City of Sumner, said that a large part of these donations were due to Heath’s dedication to the project.
“You could run, but you couldn’t hide from Bill,” joked Pugh about Heath’s determination.
Donations mostly came from all over the state. Puyallup, Kent, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and Federal Way were only a few of the local cities involved.
But that wasn’t all — there were outlying cities that contributed, including Winnemucca, Nevada; Washington, D.C., San Leandro, California; Montoursville, Pennsylvania; Youngtown, Ohio, and even Auckland, New Zealand.
This project took up ten years of Mr. Heath’s life. He’s an inspiration for leaders both present and in the future.
The contributions ranged from $1 to more than $10,000. Pugh insisted that every dollar counted.
But it wasn’t just money that was donated. Materials from lumber to cement were donated, too.
“Mr. Heath was adamant that this wasn’t about him,” Pugh said. “He didn’t do this all by himself.”
Bryan Stowe, a land developer in Sumner who has known Heath for a long time, supplied concrete and pavement for the skate park, which was built later, in 2001. Stowe also created the complex’s new sign, and donated it.
“I thought it was a great cause,” said Stowe. “(Heath’s) a great guy.”
Heath, who’s now retired, was the principal of Sumner High School from 1975 to 1981. He also worked for the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve lived in five communities in this state, and they’re all good,” Heath said. “But this community can’t be beat. It has a good location, a good government, good schools, and a good recreation department. It’s a wonderful place to live.”
On June 1, 1999, the last official report for the complex was documented, and Heath’s 10-year project came to a close.
Now, 17 years later and accompanied by his wife, Jane, Heath met up with some of the donors who helped him. Around 100 people attended the event.
Representatives from some of the major donors who attended included Sumner City Transfer, the City of Sumner, Gordon Trucking, Petersen Brothers Construction and the Sumner School District.
Before revealing the new sign, Pugh described Heath as a leader who is tenacious, persistent, committed.
“This project took up ten years of Mr. Heath’s life,” he said. “He’s an inspiration for leaders both present and in the future.”