July 02, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
A former local man kept the spirit of Lake Orion alive in an eclectic Facebook group titled "You know you're from Lake Orion if you remember..."
Recently the account has become an ongoing tribute. The lives he touched in the ongoing collection of Lake Orion memories have used the Facebook page in the last week to remember the former Lake Orion man.
Bill VanArsdel, a Lake Orion high school graduate of 1977, documenter of an impassioned community, passed away last weekend.
"One of our mighty Dragons has passed on to a better place. But with everyone's help we can keep this Dragon site from becoming extinct. Let's keep this going for Bills sake," posted Pamela Macom on VanArsdel's facebook page.
VanArsdel created the Facebook group in 2011 thinking it would be a way to keep in touch with friends who shared the same fondness for iconic Lake Orion things, memories of the old Wagon Wheel, all things Dragon, ongoing lists of past classmates, queries on closed businesses and other matters.
Today that group has expanded to 2,091 members, many who are posting their fondest memories of VanArsdel.
"Bill walks in and asks if it's okay to play the piano. He sits down takes a deep breath and belts out "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. Flawlessly I might add. Every girl, classmate, parent, and teacher were gathered around him. I think girls showed up off the street that were just walking by. He was amazing. I just set the guitar down and got another hamburger," Mitch Anderson posted, remembering a sixth grade party.
Facebook members were notified June 16 of VanArsdel's progressively worsening condition as his family members waited on test results in the hospital, manning his facebook page. No specific details were given on his condition out of respect for his family. On June 29, his sister posted "Billy Bill VanArsdel is home now. In the place where there are no more tears and no sorrow."
He made it very easy for everyone and anyone to become a Facebook user, leaving detailed instructions on how to use an account along with a few rules.
If anyone ever asked about one of VanArsdel's "unwritten rules", referring to Oxford as North Orion, he would explain that "you don't use the "O" word here."
"Thank you, Bill, for bringing us all together and giving us this amazing never-ending class reunion. Your awesome page will live on for many generations to come," Josephine Jones Harwood posted.
All anyone had to do was send VanArsdel a "join" request, and they could enter a world of Lake Orion lore.
"I just have to say he has become family to a lot of us," posted Matt Goeckel June 26.
The Review first wrote an article on his Facebook group in August 2013, after the group was growing in popularity.
"It's just a neat site for all things Lake Orion," he said from his home in Ohio. "I want it to be a pure, innocent thing. I want people to be able to remember Lake Orion the way they knew it."
"RIP Bill, thanks for bringing LO together again," posted Jeff Bulla.
And he will live on through the memories he so earnestly tracked and made available to the thousands who enjoyed it.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 2 at the Lake Orion United Methodist Church, 140 E. Flint St. with a 10:30 a.m. visitation and 11:00 a.m. service to follow. A gathering will be held in Fellowship Hall immediately following the service.