Birthday party celebrates Gliddon’s generous, kind spirit
By Sue Tiffin
There’s no one quite like Bill Gliddon.
It was a sentiment expressed by family, friends and members of the community who attended a celebration held on the lawn of St. George’s Anglican Church on Aug. 11 in honour of Gliddon’s 80th birthday.
Gliddon, ever-humble despite being referred to by those who know him as “the one and only,” and described as an all-round good guy and a saint, spent the celebration hugging visitors, redirecting accolades for him onto others, and ensuring everyone at the event was comfortable and having a good time. He said he knew an event was planned, but that the celebration ended up being beyond what he could have expected before thanking everyone for planning it, and apologizing for the work they put into it on his behalf.
“This was a lot of work and preparation, and I apologize for all the work I put you to, just because I have a birthday, but I’m enjoying this,” he said. “It’s not just about me. I wouldn’t have put up with this if it was just about me. It’s about all of us together. What we’re celebrating today is community, family, friends.”
Born and raised in Haliburton, Gliddon’s love for music began early. He was the assistant organist at the United Church by the age of 12, spent 35 years as a music teacher in Haliburton County and has been known as the choir master at St. George’s for more than half a century – almost six decades now.
Glenda Burk met Gliddon when she was about seven, just more than 50 years ago.
“I took piano lessons from him, from the time I was a little girl, then he was my public school music teacher and all through high school too, but has become our dearest, dearest friend,” she said. “I was in awe. I would walk from my house down to his studio and he instilled a real love for music. He gives so much encouragement to his students, that everyone wants to do well to make Bill proud.”
Burk said that after her piano lessons, Gliddon would play different pieces for her, knowing she had an interest in music.
“He really gave me a deep appreciation for classical music, because he loves classical music,” she said.
Her roles in his musical plays allowed her to overcome great shyness to become a character on stage.
“With his encouragement and loving attention, he made all the difference in my life,” she said. “He’s inspired so many people, and the students he’s affected over his lifetime – just thousands of students.”
In recent years, Gliddon has been named Highlander of the Year and became a member of the Order of the Diocese of Toronto for his outstanding service over a significant period of time in the church’s volunteer ministry when he was recognized as someone “whose light shines, whose works glorify.” But it’s the consistent acts of kindness that Gliddon offers the community that his friends and family marvel about: his volunteer work with CanoeFM and Highlands Little Theatre; how he assists youth in need, offering them a place to stay or a role in contributing in the community; his offerings of fresh vegetables from the garden he tends each year to anyone in need; the cooler of water he refills and sets on a bench on his lawn for passersby who might want a rest.
“Dedication,” said Louise Cooper, who was in Gliddon’s choir for the better part of 40 years, when asked about what sets him apart. “Total dedication to this community. And while the church is certainly his first focus, he spreads it around to everyone. You don’t have to be an Anglican to warrant his best efforts to help you in whatever way.”
“He is nothing less than an example,” said Reverend Ken McClure. “I call him Saint Peter of Haliburton, he’s the rock of the church in Haliburton as far as I’m concerned.”
McClure said the first day he arrived in Haliburton was around the time the Minden power station had caught fire, leaving many without hydro.
“I got a knock on my door within an hour and a half,” said McClure. “I’d never met him at that point because I’d literally just moved in. And he had a bushel of veggies for us, because we hadn’t had the chance to go out, but he also knew that we had a little bit of stuff in the fridge that was put there, so he wanted to get it and take it to his. He wouldn’t have any of it spoil. He went out in the rain to make sure our food wouldn’t spoil. It’s a level of personal attention and such love for the people around him, the neighbours around him, that we don’t see anymore, and we desperately should.”
McClure grinned as he watched Gliddon work the crowd, greeting every guest with energy and recognition and connecting people with each other, pointing out their similarities or interests.
“I bet he doesn’t eat a crumb today,” he laughed. “His body turns camaraderie into riboflavin.”
Uncomfortable in the spotlight, Gliddon joked he considered running from town when he first heard of the plan for a celebration in his honour, but said he was happy he didn’t as it gave everyone a chance to be together.
“This is what life is all about, being family, and we are a wonderful family in this community,” said Gliddon. “We’re so blessed to live in this beautiful spot, and I’m so blessed that this is happening right in the shadow of this beloved church that has meant so much to me, all my life, in praise and inspiration and in comfort of times of sadness.”
Gliddon acknowledged all of the churches in town, and the faithfulness and dedication of their priests and pastors.
“I think it’s helped to make this town a more kind and generous place, because of influence, so never deny the influence of the church.”
In his true giving style, he was sure to wish a happy birthday to others celebrating in the crowd, and to draw attention to Rama Wiso, one of the kids who flocked around him throughout the party. She would be turning six soon, he said, and had asked if she could share the birthday cake with him. Ushered over toward the cake – too nice to cut into, he noted – he paused to turn and took time to make sure the kids were following to get their piece, too.