For Bill Sipos, it’s all about giving back
Story by Anya Tikka
MONTICELLO July 5, 2013 Mr. Willy's Restaurant in Monticello was filled with family, friends, and well-wishers at the Sullivan County Recovery Center Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner last Friday in honor of John J. Sipos, the restaurant’s owner whom everyone knows as just “Bill.”
Affectionate roasts took place as one after the other those who knew him best childhood friends, former employees, and business associates, took the microphone to share anecdotes about his long, productive life. The stormy Friday night with downpours and threatened flooding deterred no one from attending.
They used humor to paint a portrait of a deeply caring man who turned his early disadvantages to a lifetime of service to help those who were not so fortunate.
Master of Ceremonies was Greg Goldstein, assisted by Gordon MacAdams. Entertainment was provided by Perry Gips.
Said Sipos, “I was adopted at three years old. I want to give back. I was given a home, a name, family, love, and I remember and I’m thankful for it. I do whatever I can to help, I’m honored to do so.”
Louisa Parker, the Recovery Center’s Community Coalition coordinator, praised Sipos at the event with these words: “I work closely with Bill Sipos. I think this is such a wonderful [event]. I’m so happy people come to share their experiences. He founded Community Unity that helps heal around the county.”
Community Unity, founded in 2006 under Sipos’ leadership, brings together four community groups under one fundraising umbrella to help a variety of our county’s most vulnerable citizens. Sipos has provided countless free meals over the decades to children and the homeless.
One of the speakers said in his roast, “I’m now an assistant county attorney near Albany, New York, but here I’m known as the bus boy.”
He then went on to describe how he was dead scared of Bill, in the end stating to a roar of laughter and applause, “All I can say, in all sincerity, I love him like a father. He’s the greatest. I love him. I began my career here, there’s not a single day that I don’t think about this place. I’m honored to be here, I love you.”
His words echoed the sentiment of many present.
Sipos noted, “I’m very honored to receive this award. It’s not really about the award, it’s about the people. These are my extended family. Without these people, these wonderful guests, I couldn’t do what I do, that helps me do what I do.”
When asked what made him such a benefactor for those in need when many people who are in the same position don’t do so, Sipos replied, “I’ve been blessed. I have a wife, I have a family of my own, two sons, extended family, a granddaughter, sister.” He also stated several times he’s thankful for all he’s been given in life.
Sipos started his restaurant, then called Bend n Elbow as well as his philanthropic efforts, 45 years ago. A Monticello High School graduate, after stints in retail trade in Sullivan County and elsewhere, he returned to start his successful restaurant business in Monticello.
Sipos founded Community Unity six years ago, because, he states in the event brochure, “We do better, together.” That could well summarize his lifetime of helping others and bringing other people together to do so as well.