The Life of Imperial Sir Bill Bailey

The Life of Imperial Sir Bill Bailey

The Life of Imperial Sir Bill Bailey
View Transcript

Bill Bailey:

I didn't even expect to be Imperial Potentate, but here I am, ready to go.

My childhood was an ideal childhood. The middle of three sons, the loving parents, the great town to grow up in. The entrance to our town only has one entrance because we lived in the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. My grandmother lived with us, my mother's mother, and very astute business woman. She went to work every day. The family owned a Buick car dealership in Gary, Indiana, and she went off to work with my father every day.

John Bailey:

Three hours after I was born, my brother Bill was born. And as I call him, Little Billy, as my mother called him, Willy [Lump Lump 00:01:02]. We had a wonderful family. And then seven years after my birth, my brother James was born.

Bill Bailey:

My father made sure that we understood that he probably didn't want us in the car business, but he wanted us to follow our own path and discover what we want to do best. And so after graduating from the University of Evansville, where I got my undergraduate degree, I also went to the University of Kentucky and got my master's in zoology. Looking for something in the medical field, I went into medical sales, did that for a number of years. And then switched over and joined my brother as his partner in a brokerage firm in downtown Chicago, where we sell commercial investment and real estate.

Debby Bailey:

I was born in Chicago. And at about age four, we moved into a suburb of Chicago Heights, just south of Chicago. I went to Illinois State University to become a teacher. I taught for 33 years.

Bill Bailey:

It was my junior year in college that I moved off campus and moved into an apartment complex. And that was Debby's first time teaching the visually impaired. And she and I were in the same apartment complex, and I actually could see her door from my window, and just kept seeing this cute young girl.

Debby Bailey:

We became friends, and things just clicked after a while and getting to know one another.

Bill Bailey:

Finally, we started dating. So it took some time to make it work, but we stuck through it. I'm not sure why she stuck through it with me, but she did.

Debby Bailey:

He was very clever. At Christmas time, he gave me this great big package with lots of boxes inside. And so I was very thrilled when I opened it up and found an engagement ring in it.

Well, I guess I would say in having the two boys, Bill was a great example of a father.

Rob Bailey:

I just am very thankful for having such strong and caring parents. They really taught me a lot of life lessons about dedication and thoughtfulness and thinking about others. And seeing them in the shrine was always a big part of me growing up.

Ross Bailey:

We're very fortunate to have parents that were extremely involved. Those are the memories that I really enjoy, is sitting down around the dinner table and recounting the days. Dad would always, rather than telling me, how was school? Tell me three good things that happened to you today. Just trying to put that positive spin on your day.

Bill Bailey:

From where we live, you can actually see downtown Chicago. There's only 690 homes in the entire town.

Ross Bailey:

Growing up here in Ogden Dunes, we had an opportunity as a family to be together on all occasions. We're fortunate to be right here on the cusp and the south tip of Lake Michigan. Some of our biggest memories as a family were going down to the beach with my brother, Rob, and mom and dad, and spending all weekend there. And frankly, it seemed like all summer there.

Bill Bailey:

The second family that we have is our church family. We've been very involved in the Ogden Dunes Community Church. It's all volunteer, and so we all pitch in and do what we need to do to make it a successful church.

Libby Larson:

They are just about serving others, helping others, and sharing their faith with others.

Michelle Skaggs:

The Baileys are just tremendous people, and you're going to hear a common theme as you talk to people about service and about their incredible empathy toward others. Their willingness, not only willingness, but it's almost a drive for them to serve other people.

Jeri Kris:

All these years that I have known him and Debby, I feel blessed to call them friends. And I feel that the Shriner's International will be very blessed to have him as their leader and Debby as their First Lady.

Bill Bailey:

We are very proud of the fact that we are the only second father son team as Imperial Potentates. My father saw me sworn in as Imperial Outer Guard, and I thought I was happy. And he was overjoyed, as a father would be. It was quite an experience to be able to inherit his passion and his vision of helping children and helping the fraternity to be better than what it was in his day. My father, being involved in Scottish Rite, he had told us he wants us to experience all the different branches of the Masonic family, and so we all did. My younger brother, Jim, and I went through the Blue Lodge together. And then Jim went on to become president of the Great Lakes Shrine Association and was president in 2009, the same time that I was Potentate of Orak Shrine in 2009.

John Bailey:

Unfortunately, Jim, who was the third of the Musketeers, left us a number of years ago, and has a hole in our heart, but never in our memories. Jim was a terrific Mason and a terrific Shriner. And he and Bill were the closest that close could be.

Bill Bailey:

It still feels like a major loss.

And then one day, I went to the Divan of Orak Shrine and I said, "What would you think if we ran for the Imperial line?" So Debby and I ran. We didn't win the first year, we didn't win the second year. And most people think that you're going to quit after that and you would feel sorry for yourself. But then we would hear one of the national patient ambassadors talk about the struggles that they went through and overcoming those struggles. I had to quit being sorry for myself. So I would come back, and Debby and I would get back on the road and campaign. I'm grateful for their support and being elected to the Imperial Outer Guard.

Tim Lawson:

Well, I haven't known Bill as long as some of the guys in our shrine have. But he comes from a long line, a legacy of Imperial Potentates.

Danny Martin:

His whole family, his dad, Bob, his brother, Jim, were always so dedicated to the shrine and the shrine cause, the philanthropy of the hospital. Their dedication is unmatched with anybody I've ever known. Bill Bailey's heart has always been in it. I've always admired that in Bill.

Wayne Hodgetts, Jr.:

Bill is a strong leader and has been involved with many appendant bodies, and showing the leadership skills, always a smile. But behind each good man, is a lady. And Lady Debby is fantastic.

Larry Dowty:

Oh, it doesn't get any better than this. His dad, again, was Imperial Potentate the day I came into the shrine. And to serve with Bill and for Bill, and now have Bill be the Imperial Potentate, I'm proud of the entire shrine here. His home is extremely proud to have Bill as the Imperial Potentate of all Shriners everywhere.

Bill Bailey:

The story that got me the most was when my mom and dad came home and told me about a visit to a shrine hospital. And they saw a little boy sitting on the exam table, and he was wiggling his feet back and forth. And they could tell that he was a double amputee. And you think about what they don't have. And the mother stopped my mother, who was about to cry, and said, "You don't understand. He's happy." That was the first hook that we really understood what mom and dad were talking about. The difference that the shrine had made.

Rob Bailey:

He encouraged me to become a nurse because he believes in healthcare. I am where I am today because of his encouragement. And so I think the hospital system, above all, is in my dad's forethought constantly.

Ross Bailey:

My grandmother had a severe scoliosis, my Uncle Jim had scoliosis, my father has a bit of scoliosis, and so it's something that we're aware of. These children, we just want them to be children. That's what they deserve, that they could go play. I see that with my son running in the yard right now. There are children that are learning to run in a different way.

Bill Bailey:

Connor.

Connor:

Hi.

Bill Bailey:

What are you doing here?

Connor:

Hi, how are you guys?

Debby Bailey:

Hello. Nice to see you.

Connor:

Nice to see you guys too. Thanks for coming out to the hospital today. I took a day off school to show you guys my day at the hospital. I'm so happy to see you guys. It's been a while.

Bill Bailey:

And what is in here?

Connor:

This is where they take all my x-rays before, after, and going into surgeries. First I step up onto this machine, and I will sit in here, and it circles around my head and it takes a panoramic of my whole skull.

Speaker 14:

He ran over my sign. Do you see me sipping on your name?

Bill Bailey:

Well, we're very proud of you, the fact that you're in college now. And I have a present for you. And I want you to know, I spared no expense thinking about your college future. So I want you to have this.

Alec:

Awesome. A pencil. It's a broken pencil.

Bill Bailey:

I spared no expense on that. Don't worry about it.

Alec:

I'll sharpen it.

Bill Bailey:

Just the look on your face alone tells me exactly what you think of this present.

Alec:

This means a lot to me. Thank you very much.

Bill Bailey:

Tell me a little bit about your experience with Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Alec:

Absolutely. So I've been going to the hospital in Chicago since I was two months old. I suffer from osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. I've broken over 60 bones in my lifetime, but we lost count, so it's a good ballpark. But I go to the hospital for physical therapy, surgeries, consultations. Sometimes when I need a family to rely on, Shriners Hospitals for Children has just always been there for me.

Bill Bailey:

You've met one or two Shriners in your lifetime across the country. What has the Shrine fraternity meant to you?

Alec:

Shrine fraternity, whenever I see a Shriner, whenever I see a fez, I know that I see a man who I can rely on. I know I see a guy who is amazing, who has done so much for me, and who is willing to do anything for me. The Shiners fraternity and the fez, it means everything to me. I hope to become a Shriner later on in life. I don't know if that's in the near future, I don't know if that's in a couple years, but I want to be a Shriner when I grow up.

Mark Niederpruem:

Yes, I've been fortunate to know both of the Baileys. I've been with the organization almost three decades. And Bill's dad, Bob, was a leader during that time, and demonstrated the same consistency and genuineness and compassion that Bill shows today.

Bill Bailey:

The message Debby and I are trying to get across to everybody, this is not our year. This is the year of the noble. This is the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Shriners Hospitals for Children and the 150th anniversary of Shriners International. We want to do as much as we can to raise membership and let people know the fun and fellowship that there is within the shrine.

Debby Bailey:

And we want the ladies to encourage new nobles to come to temple, meet different clubs or units, and find their little sync. And if you don't have one, encourage your husband to form a new group.

David Moss:

He sets the example people follow. He has always had a smile. He and Lady Debby always have a smile when they greet people. Makes him easy to follow.

Debby Bailey:

I am very, very proud of him. He's a hard worker. He's well organized. I love to listen to him speak when he's in front of a group because he speaks from the heart.

Rob Bailey:

I'm very proud of my parents. I'm so happy for them for making it this far. It's a long journey. I think my father is going to leave behind a legacy of dedication. And I think that Shriners are dedicated, they're passionate, and I think that my dad is above and beyond. My mom, she's so caring and wonderful. I couldn't imagine being raised by a better mother.

Ross Bailey:

Well, I hope that he continues his legacy of fun. He's always been a lot of fun. Certainly hope that it'll be a legacy of service and giving back to the fraternity, and providing an opportunity to those that will follow him. Incredibly grateful to be their son. I think they've done a wonderful job, personally. But I'm now excited to see them grow into their roles as Imperial Potentate and the First Lady of Shriners International.

Bill Bailey:

What's most important is that you leave them financially more secure, but you also try to grow both the hospitals and the fraternity and make them stronger. Because we want this to last for the next 100 years and the next 150 years beyond this. And hopefully be the kind of son my father wants me to be, the kind of brother my brothers wanted me to be, and be the kind of father my sons want me to be. So it's an awesome responsibility. And at some point in time, it's my turn to turn around and support everybody else.