By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, January 12, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
HAMPTON -- The extraordinary life of Hampton's own 'Singing Cop', William "Bill" Elliot, was celebrated during a memorial service held on Monday of this week at the United Methodist Church in Hampton.
The well-attended service saw family, friends and folks from throughout the community as well as the state gathering to remember a man whose true loves were many: Helping mankind; his church; singing; athletics; Scouting; Masonry; the Grange; his hometown of Hampton; his family; and his beloved wife of 77 years, Alzena, who predeceased him in 2004.
"He was one heck of a remembered guy," said son Wayne, adding that his father "was really loved up there" at the Rockingham County Nursing Home, where the elder Elliot lived out his final years, during which time he celebrated his 100th birthday.
[Atlantic News File Photos by Liz Premo]
Bill, who passed away on January 3 just a few months short of his 102nd birthday, "lived a varied life to the fullest," according to his family. Among his many pursuits during his lifetime: Laborer; farmer; operative mason; truck driver; police officer; coach; Chamber of Commerce executive secretary; state park manager; executive vice president for Retail Merchants Association (RMA) of NH; poet; radio announcer; director of stage plays; disc jockey; professional actor; and, most of all, a concert singer.
In his role as the "Singing Cop," Bill worked as a part-time traffic officer between 1930-40, directing Hampton Beach travelers around the Casino while the Big Bands played. As the house band was about to begin its final set of the evening (usually around 9 p.m.), Officer Elliot was known to hop onto the bandstand, step behind the microphone and perform a few numbers. Then he would hop back down - only to be beckoned back on stage for an encore.
In May of 1969, as the executive vice president of the RMA, Bill was lauded in a "good-bye" letter by the outgoing president, Edwin Chertok.
"We wouldn't be where we are at the end of a three-year period if we hadn't been fortunate enough to hire Bill when this organization was formed," Chertok wrote.
"Let me tell you a little about Bill," Chertok continued. "First, he is a deeply religious man, with strong moral convictions. He is straightforward, plain, no frills [or] false pride. He does his job - hours mean nothing to him. He puts his heart into his work and motivates others" and "is respected by all his associates."
Speaking of heart, Mr. Elliot caught the heart of his wife-to-be when they met in Hampton back in seventh grade. According to Elliot family remembrances, "Alzena's first words way back then to her girlfriend (later her maid of honor) were, 'Bill is the man I'm going to marry.'" That prediction was sealed for life beginning with the tiny bluebird pin which Bill gave to Alzena, a gift which she carried with her throughout their life together.
Bill graduated 11th in his high school class of more than 200 and had the opportunity to attend West Point, although he ultimately declined. He went on to take advanced studies in subjects such as economics, salesmanship, advertising, life underwriting and real estate planning, an accumulation of knowledge utilized in his various employs.
Singing, though, became Bill's life's work. As a concert singer he performed all over New England, possessing "a tremendous memory" and laying claim to a well-rounded repertoire of more than 2000 songs, representing the classical, opera, popular, western and religious genres.
When he wasn't singing various selections in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish or Latin (and sometimes Hebrew and Armenian), he was singing as a soloist in his home church, where he also served as choir director. Then there were the Sunshine Club for shut-ins performances on WEEI-CBS, and the Christmas carols he sang in Boston's North Station during World War II to help raise "millions of dollars in savings bonds."
From his humble beginnings on the family farm in Woolwich, Maine (where he learned just as much about life as he did about farming); to marrying and raising a family in Hampton; to celebrating a multitude of April birthdays with his Dearborn Avenue neighbors; to charming the staff at the nursing home where he lived out his final days, Bill Elliot touched the lives and hearts of those who had the opportunity to know him. His is a life which deserves to be celebrated, and one which will be dearly missed.