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Malverne's Cancer Fighter, Bill Holzapfel, Dies at 58

Malvernite and active American Cancer Society volunteer suffers fatal heart attack.

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 twww.relayforlife.org/malverneny

You can share your thoughts or memories about Bill, or offer your condolences in the space below.

RFW July 13, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Only met him once, as Malverne's handyman. Nice man. So sad.
Regina Rochford July 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Bill did a great deal of work for us, and became a trusted friend over the years. My deepest sympathy to his wife, Mary and his daughter.
Frank Rush July 13, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Bill was a great man and he will be truly missed.Mary you are in my thoughts and prayers Frank Rush
jimmy o neill July 14, 2012 at 03:15 AM
It was good to have met Bill,just a great person and his wife Mary.....good funny memories on the Great south Bay . Very sad . Jimmy
Jan Kasal July 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I met him only once. It was regarding the Relay. His personality and energy impressed me. My condolences to his family.
Joe Resch July 14, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Bill was a neighbor of mine, also a great friend. We shared fishing stories & experiences. He was a vibrant part of our Malverne community & will be greatly missed. My condolences to Mary & his family.
deborah gordon July 14, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Met Bill this year when we joined Relay for Life. Shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. He was a kind and caring man and our prayers and thoughts go out to his incredible wife and family
Jodie Towsky July 15, 2012 at 12:58 AM
A sad day all around; I lost my RELAY FOR LIFE buddy, Malverne lost an amazing advocate, and the American Cancer Society lost one of it's most passionate volunteers. Bill Holzapfel, "Wild Bill," you will be missed. Rest in Peace friend. Jodie Towsky
Marguerite Robles July 15, 2012 at 05:00 PM
The "Kids of Downing School" and I will miss our special friend, "Mr. Bill! He was our favorite cheerleader during this year's Relay for Life Campaign. His visits to our school will be remembered as will his special smile and words of encouragement. We were all saddened by this loss and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Mary Forristall July 15, 2012 at 09:03 PM
I met "Wild Bill" for the first time this past Relay for Life. What a wonderful individual. I have done several Relays for Life over the years, but he made a real imprint on me. I will never do another without thinking of him and his strength of purpose, I will be more then honored to come back next year and walk in his memory for all he did to find a cure and give others courage to fight for theirs. God Bless you Wild Bill and it was an honor knowing you.
Rena Glynos July 16, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Rena & Stavros Glynos We met Bill 38 years ago and he was always pleasant and helpful. He always was passionate in whatever he did. So sad to leave at the prime of his life. He will always be remembered with a smile.
Michael Bondarenko July 17, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Bill was first to welcome us to the neighborhood when we moved to the house across the street many years ago. He was first to help us when adversity knocked on our door this year. And all the years in between, Bill was a dear neighbor - kind man with generous smile and a huge heart. We will miss you, Bill. Mike and Olga Bondarenko
louis russo August 23, 2012 at 10:52 PM
The first time I met Bill I had a crush on him. Mary, Bills girfriend at the time had shown me pictures of Bill and I was so excited to meet him. He was such a gentle soul and took my sexual harasment with a grain of salt. He never got mad and we had a good laugh the three of us. Later Bill and Mary were married and I met Bill again and still he was just a great guy with a Happy Outlook on life looking foward to the next time he would go fishing with his pal Patrick, Marys dog. Bill wrote a moving article about Patrick which was published in a fishing magazine. And one did not know untill the end of the article that Patrick was a dog. Bill has certainly left a good impression on everyone that meets him and we will all miss him. Goodbye old friend. Louis Russo

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