Rites held for 'Mr. Bixby,' Bill Pittman, 83
BY NATALIE O'NEAL World Staff Writer
Friday, October 19, 2012
10/19/12 at 5:40 AM
BIXBY - When Bill Pittman stuck his head in your office, you could practically hear the gears turning in his head with a newly thought-up plan or idea. He was a "soft-spoken visionary," said Tom Outhier, president of the Friends of Irving Foundation and Pittman's friend of 40 years.
Pittman's active involvement in his community earned him the moniker "Mr. Bixby."
"There really wasn't anything going on that he wasn't a part of or didn't start," Outhier said.
After retiring from Telex Computer Products, Pittman started looking for a new pastime. About that time, the city of Bixby was thinking of selling neglected park land just north of the Arkansas River Bridge on Memorial Drive.
But Pittman "felt that it was very important for cities to have parks," said his wife, Susie Pittman. He started the nonprofit Friends of Irving Foundation in 1992 to revitalize the park and pay tribute to Washington Irving, the author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" who trekked through the area in 1832.
Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum soon flourished as a direct result of Pittman's vision, hard work and the friends he gathered to help, city leaders said.
Once funding is obtained, the Friends of Irving Foundation plans to install statues of Irving's characters Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
Pittman told the Tulsa World in 1992, "It's such an opportunity to build a park that we can be proud of" as a "historical site, educational site, literary site, picnic site and an area for exercise," as well as one that "allows us to use our imagination."
Pittman, 83, died Oct. 12. A service was held Tuesday under the direction of Leonard & Marker Funeral Home.
Many additions have been made to the 32.5-acre wooded park since its inception in 1992.
Among them are the Laci Dawn Hill Butterfly Garden, an amphitheater with the namesake author keeping vigil on a front porch, and memorials to the child victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
The World Trade Center Memorial consists of a piece of twisted steel from the site itself.
"Bill was totally responsible for getting that piece of structure and financial donations for the memorial," Outhier said.
The Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum was Pittman's hobby. In the beginning, "he stayed awake at night thinking about this project because he wanted it to be more than what it was," Susie Pittman said.
In 2004, Pittman told the Tulsa World, "I'm elated that this project is coming to life."
Along with the park, Pittman was a charter member of the Bixby Optimist Club, served on the board of directors of the Bixby Chamber of Commerce and the Daily Family YMCA, served two terms on the Bixby school board and co-founded the Miss Bixby scholarship pageant.
Although he was involved in many organizations, he didn't want to be in the foreground, his wife said.
Pittman "always made you feel like you were important," Outhier said. "His legacy was one of making a community better for the citizens in it."
Pittman is survived by his wife, Susie Pittman; one son, Gregory Pittman; a sister, Alice Willison; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: 'Soft-spoken visionary' made park dream a reality
Natalie O'Neal 918-581-8347
Bill and Susie Pittman stand in front of a steel beam from the World Trade Center that he was instrumental in bringing to the Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum in Bixby. Bill Pittman died Oct. 12. Courtesy