Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot & Review
Billy Kucil, 67
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Chicago. It was a hard transition at first because I was a regular street kid from the city. To come to a smaller city; Mosinee Wisconsin was a culture shock for me. My parents wanted to get out of our neighborhood because it was getting bad and decided to buy a bar in Mosinee.
How do you like living in the Wausau area compared to Chicago?
I love it very much. I’ve been living in the area since 1970, but currently live in Rothschild.
What was your career choice?
I went to college at UW-Superior and graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in Public Administration and minor in Business. I came home and worked on a beer truck for awhile. This guy saw me and asked, “How’d you like to come work for me?” I wasn’t familiar with him, but we talked and I was able to get a job with Kraft Foods as a Sales Rep and did that for 20 years. I loved it because I got a free car every two years and all the food I wanted. I met a lot of different people and it took me out of this area because they moved me to Lacrosse, WI.
How did you decide to join the Army?
I didn’t join the Army, but Uncle Sam said, “I want you!” He drafted me when I was 22 years old and was in for two years. I was lucky number 29, but going through the service was one of the best experiences of my life. One time, I was with my partner in the tent and a Sergeant came and said, “You two guys pack your stuff up; you’re leaving. You’re going to get a physical.” I asked, “What for?” He told me not to ask so many questions. We packed our things up and loaded onto the truck and found out we were going to be Military Police (MP) in the service; it was fun. After that, I went to Germany to be a cop as well. I was then promoted to Desk Sergeant so I didn’t have to work the streets anymore, but was in charge of them; it was a good job and I enjoyed it. I met a lot of people and friends while they were all there doing the same thing. It was important to maintain peace and serve and protect the people of the United States of America. I was stationed in Kitzingen, Germany and there was an airfield there which was near our MP station.
How long have you been involved in the Man of Honor Society?
I joined in July of 2013. There were gentleman that I knew and the founder that were asking me to join. I brushed it off for awhile, but they believed I could help people so I decided to join and enjoy every minute of it.
If you had advice to give to anyone, what would it be?
Take everything one day at a time; I do. I am a cancer survivor and I have taken those steps. You will get to where you need to be. I was diagnosed nine years ago with what they call Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and am in remission and feel great. I am also a Livestrong cancer instructor at the YMCA. We are given permission by the hospital and doctors to run this Livestrong program. When people go through Chemotherapy, they lose body mass and we do exercise programs to build back their strength. This is my ninth year with the class, but I was a member the first class they had at the YMCA in Weston. I was asked by one of the ladies that ran the program if I would be willing to be an instructor because of how well I got along with people. I agreed and have been doing it ever since; we have classes twice a week, two times a year.
How many people are typically in the program?
It generally averages six to twelve, but twelve is the max. I enjoy it and having the ability to talk to people. When you get off Chemo, you are frightened. You are coming to a class and you don’t know what’s going to happen or what’s going on. If you’re in the class, you think something bad is going to happen to you, but they have me there to calm everyone down.
What was one of your hardest ages growing up?
15 or 16 in Chicago because a lot of my friends were getting beat up or killed. I was not in a good part of the neighborhood.
What did you learn about yourself from this time frame?
I was happy that my parents got out of Chicago. We had the golden opportunity to move from Chicago to here and we took it. Getting out of Chicago’s environment helped me tremendously because I don’t know what would have happened to me.
What are your favorite memories from living here?
Graduating from high school and the friends I made here. I went to a boys Catholic school in Chicago and then had to go to school one year in Mosinee. I appreciate people and having the ability to extend my hand to help others. I had my scare with cancer so it made me more aware of life; going through the whole process made me a different person.
What are changes you’d like to see in the community in the next five years?
The Wausau community is very down-to-earth. I’ve lived in Lacrosse and it’s a far cry from this place. There’s more to do in Lacrosse, but Wausau is a beautiful place to live.
What’s your favorite quote?
I really don’t have one. Just be careful who you go to college with because I graduated with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had one class with him; English. He thought I was nuts; I was a wild man.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a prankster and I’m always joking. If I get an opportunity to prank someone, I will. My humor is sometimes sick, but it’s okay. I’m always ready for a good joke.
Do you have a moment in life that changed you?
When I got cancer and going through the treatments changed me. It changed me for the good because I met a lot of different people and made me realize what life is all about. They always say when you see that hand coming out of the sky, it’s coming to get you. I saw that hand, I slapped it, and it went back up; I’m still here! I feel great and am in better shape than I ever was.
What motivates you each day?
The will to have a good time and be alive. I love to be helpful and if I can be, I will be. I snow blow for a lot of the seniors so they don’t have to do it. Any time I can be helpful, I’m there.