Retired Crystal Lake man volunteers versatility to county historical society

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
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(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Bill Dysart has volunteered at the McHenry County Historical Society for more than 20 years. He is tasked with repairing and maintaining the society's properties.

For the past 28 years, McHenry County Historical Society officials have called Bill Dysart various nicknames all tied to craftsmanship, from The Wizard to MacGyver.

Unlike a mythical magician or a fictitious special agent solving problems with duct tape, Dysart is a real, invaluable asset to the society whenever repairs and renovations to the society's historical properties are needed, said Kurt Begalka, the society's administrator.

"It's for the body of work that he does here – the scope of what he does, his commitment to the organization," Begalka said. "He walks the talk. You have to have somebody like that. We have all these properties out there, and they are all over 100 years old."

Dysart, a retired mechanical engineer who lives in Crystal Lake, has been volunteering his time to the society's building department since 1986.

Begalka said he nominated Dysart as an Everyday Hero for his dedication to the society and his selfless demeanor to the voluntary work.

The society may never had realized Dysart's strong work ethic if not for his wife, Vel. In 1986, Vel Dysart volunteered for the society at a one-room schoolhouse and mentioned to her husband that some furniture needed repairs.

"I never did see the furniture," Bill Dysart said. "But I saw other stuff to do out there. I got involved and started repairing things and building exhibits."

"It's all my wife's fault," he said with a laugh.

Born and raised in Dixon, Dysart attended Purdue University and graduated with an engineering degree. After college, he worked in Indiana building diesel engines before moving to Crystal Lake to work at a Pure Oil research facility.

He wanted to stay in the McHenry County area after the Union Oil Company in California bought Pure Oil and asked Dysart to move to the west coast. He found work in Schaumburg before retiring in 1986.

His volunteerism started soon after his retirement and has expanded to other organizations than the historical society.

Dysart's post-retirement résumé includes a former Crystal Lake Kiwanis membership, being a former board member to the local YMCA and volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley.

The society remains a creative outlet for Dysart, who said the building work always poses different challenges.

In the years since joining the society, Dysart has renovated a log cabin, helped replace flooring at a limestone schoolhouse and created a mobile exhibit out of an old school bus.

"It's interesting and challenging stuff," Dysart said. "I've always been a tinkerer. I'm always willing to try anything, except for maybe electronics. Mechanical stuff is kind of my forte."

At the society, Begalka said he simply is fortunate to have such a knowledgeable resource at his disposal that he can rely on for repairs, renovations, fabrications and exhibits.

"He never boasts about it and he never makes a big deal about it," Begalka said. "I thought a little recognition would be called for."

Dysart can thank his wife for that.

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