During the decades that the Sabres played at Memorial Auditorium, one enthusiastic fan would jump out of his seat during musical interludes to do the twist.
Though most people knew him only as “the Twister,” his name was Larry Bill.
He had a season ticket for several years, occupying an aisle seat at the locker room end of the Aud. The Sabres eventually presented him with a custom team jersey, bearing the name “Twister.”
Lawrence D. Bill died of cancer May 19 in his Buffalo home. He was 65.
“Larry was a great sports fan and very outgoing,” said his sister, Carolyn B. DeGroff, who lives in Central New York. “He enjoyed the attention of being the Twister.”
“I’m sure many people will remember him with a broad grin,” said Betty Spencer, who knew Bill through Kenmore United Methodist Church. “He will be so missed.”
To those who knew him, Bill was so much more than “the Twister.”
He grew up in Kenmore and graduated from the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District. Though he had a learning disability, Bill also attended Husson University in Bangor, Maine, for a couple of years.
He lived with family until 2002, when his father died. He had learned how to drive but relied on buses to get around: to work, church, the grocery store, volunteer commitments and doctor appointments.
He also took the bus to get to Niagara Falls for his honeymoon in 2011, when he married the former Gail Klaus.
Bill worked for a lawn care and snow removal contractor when he was younger and, for the past 15 years, was a part-time maintenance worker at Northwest Community Mental Health Center in Buffalo.
“He was a very good worker,” said Anne Kabatt, the center’s executive director. “Any job you gave him, he was willing to do.”
Bill’s job performance prevailed even as his health deteriorated in recent months.
“He was here every day ... It was important for him to work,” Kabatt said. “He worked the Friday before he died.”
A lifelong member and fixture at Kenmore United Methodist Church, Bill sang in its choirs for decades and later switched to ushering.
“He wanted to help everywhere he could,” his sister said. “That was one of the reasons he told me he wanted to become an usher at the church: they were so supportive of him when he got married. He recognized that he had a support system and he wanted to give back.” Mike Turner, a member of the church, agreed.
“He loved his church and was always there to help out whatever was needed,” he said.
“He worked his last Sunday two days before he died,” said Turner, who intends to participate in this year’s Ride for Roswell in Bill’s memory. “Although looking very thin and gaunt, he was ready to work, greeting people, handing out bulletins and taking the collection.”
A memorial service for Bill will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Kenmore United Methodist Church, 32 Landers Road, Kenmore.