Ice fishing for a cause

Ice fishing for a cause

Neal Harrington checks a tip-up at last Saturday’s ice fishing competition benefitting former councilman Bill Flynn, whose house burned down in a fire the previous week. (Breeze photos by Jacquelyn Moorehead)
Big Bear tournament supports former councilman after fire

GLOCESTER – Glocester proved once again over the weekend it’s a community that sticks together after an ice fishing tournament raised $500 for a former councilman whose house burned down earlier this month.

Bill Flynn, a former councilman who also served as a former director of the West Glocester Fire Department, lost his home to a fire on Feb. 6. According to his daughter, Sherry Anderson, he lost everything, salvaging only a couple of photos.

Last Saturday, Feb. 13, Councilman Will Worthy, owner of Big Bear Hunting and Firearms, responded by hosting the Big Bear Tip-Up Classic to raise funds for the former councilman. Fishermen and women from around the state participated from their local frozen pond, posting pictures of their catch to the bait and gun shop’s Facebook page.

Worthy said the situation hit close to home after a 2018 fire at Big Bear caused a near-total loss of the shop and its contents. During that time, he said, he felt the love of the community with people offering food, help, computer use and solace in the days following the fire.

Familiar with Flynn and his volunteer work for the community, Worthy said he felt compelled to help.

“We know how that feels to lose everything. He lost his house. He lost a cat. It’s gut-wrenching. We knew we had to do anything we could do to help,” he said.

Worthy and Big Bear set up the tournament for this past Saturday, with fishers from across the state invited to join for $10 per person. Each fisher with a valid fishing license could set up to five tip-up ice fishing rigs, hoping to catch the day’s largest fish.

The fisherman or woman with the longest pike or bass won a prize from Big Bear and FishDaddy401. Participants could fish in any frozen pond in Rhode Island, and submitted pictures of fish on the bait and gun shop’s Facebook page.

By the end of the day, 48 people had signed up, raising $500 for Flynn and his family. Participants started as early as 5 a.m. on Saturday, and finished around dusk when the colder temperatures set in.

Winners, including Nate Poirier with a 21-inch bass and Eric Galloway with a 23-inch pike, won $25 gift cards from Big Bear and a package of FishDaddy401 soft plastic fishing gear.

Ice fisher Neal Harrington said the competition is a good example of how Glocester comes together as a community.

“There’s never a question. When someone is in need we all come out to help. We’re a tight-knit community, people know Billy and are doing everything to help,” he said.

He and his brother, Ryan, fished Waterman Lake in Glocester on Saturday and said they caught several fish, but no winners.

Big Bear is also accepting donations at the shop, at 401 Putnam Pike for Flynn. Worthy said the Glocester Business Association and other local businesses have been generous with donations of gift cards and other items.

Well-wishers can also donate to a GoFundMe account set up by Flynn’s daughter, Sherry Anderson, which had surpassed its $1,000 goal as of this week. Anderson said her father is not one to ask for help, so she decided to set up the fundraiser with a small goal to allow the community to use its discretion on donating.

According to Anderson, Flynn lived in Glocester for more than 40 years, and served the town on the council and as director of the West Glocester Fire Department.

“Even after his three children grew up and moved out on their own, he continued to be a big part of the community,” she wrote.

Anderson said even at a young age, she saw her father’s dedication to the town, and grew up with respect to how things worked in town government.

Arriving at her family home after receiving the news of the house fire, she said, she saw that the house was reduced to debris.

“I watched as 40 years of memories went up in flames,” she said.

The West Glocester Fire Department at 2410 Putnam Pike is also accepting donations of money, necessities and gift cards.

Worthy said ice fishing season is decent this year after a few years of unsafe ice. He said 2020 had about a week of safe ice fishing where ice was at least six inches thick. He anticipates the season, which began last week, to run for several more weeks.

Councilman Will Worthy, right, set up the Big Bear Tip-Up Classic ice fishing competition last Saturday, raising $500 for former Councilman Bill Flynn. Also pictured are contestants Ryan, left, and Neal Harrington.