Bill Holzapfel, a Malverne resident and a warrior in the fight against cancer, died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack while on a fishing trip upstate. He was 58.
Holzapfel, known as "Wild Bill" to most people around town, had owned Malverne Hardware, a store that was once located in the village, on the corner of Hempstead Avenue and Nassau Avenue. But in addition to being a handyman, Holzapfel was also a fighter. He was very outspoken and candid about the toll that cancer has taken on his family and friends. These personal experiences and and his belief that a cure will be found, inspired him to become one of the American Cancer Society's most active and passionate volunteers.
Holzapfel was a key organizer and advocate for Malverne's and , a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society held in May 2011 and 2012. In the months leading up to the programs, he could often be found walking along Hempstead Avenue or speaking up at a board meetings, spreading the word about Relay for Life with his infectious smile, humor and heartfelt words. With Holzapfel's energy and hardwork, the events not only raised funds for ACS but they also brought awareness to cancer prevention, honored those diagnosed with the disease and united Malverne and neighboring communities in the fight against it.
Holzapfel not only co-chaired Malverne's Relay for Life, but he was also one of the top three fundraisers this year, bringing in $6,596, and eagerly assisted other teams with their fundraising efforts including helping out at the this spring.
"Malverne I am so proud of you. You have blown me away," he told those gathered at the May 4 event. "Every one of you are my heroes and I truly mean that because tonight we are all here to save lives and that's what the true meaning of a hero is."
'Wild Bill' also lent his support and energy to other programs held throughout the year aimed at saving lives including the held and Malverne High School each October, where he could be seen sporting a pink mustache in honor of the cause.
Each year, Holzapfel also blended his love of fishing with his passion for finding a cure for cancer by organizing his own Fish for a Cure fundraising event.
Paul Gruol, director of Special Events for the American Cancer Society, often described Holzapfel as one of the organization's "most outstanding volunteers," and said "We are lucky to have someone with so much passion."
Gruol met Holzapfel through the American Cancer Society and said, "in the short time I have really gotten to know Bill, I found a true friend when I needed one most."
The news of Holzapfel's passing left Gruol and some many others heartbroken.
"He was loved by everyone he touched because he genuinely cared about everything he did and the people he met and came to know," Gruol told Patch. "I think I heard Malverne cry yesterday."
Holzapfel is survived by his wife, daughter and grandchild.
Visitation will be Sunday, July 15, from 7-9 p.m., and Monday, July 16, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at in Lynbrook. There will be a private funeral service Tuesday for the family.
The family has asked instead of flowers a donation be made to the Malverne Relay For Life a t www.relayforlife.org/malverneny
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