Opinion

Auburn's Pelozas dedicate a lifetime to service, duty | Klaas

Bill and Joyce Peloza have led many volunteer efforts in the Auburn area since moving to the community 40 years ago. - Mark Klaas/Auburn Reporter
Bill and Joyce Peloza have led many volunteer efforts in the Auburn area since moving to the community 40 years ago.
— image credit: Mark Klaas/Auburn Reporter

Bill Peloza is not a war hero in a wheelchair, just a task-mastering City Councilman, tireless volunteer and Navy veteran who proudly wears the white hat.

Peloza is a common man, a good guy committed to family, friends and many community causes.

To him, time is precious, something to be put in constructive motion.

There is simply too much to do.

"I have some unfinished projects," said Peloza, now in his seventh year on the City Council, as he put aside his congested day planner tablet to reach for a cup of coffee. "Don't waste time."

Since moving to Auburn with his wife, Joyce, and their two adopted children 40 years ago, Peloza has made it a point to be active, be an impact and above all, be helpful to others.

That mission continues today. The 70-something Peloza remains just as determined to make conditions better for his fellow neighbor.

He has championed the less fortunate, pushed for the return of the self-sustaining farmers market, supported downtown redevelopment and is leading a call for federal support to eradicate milfoil, an invasive weed, from Lake Tapps.

Mention irresponsible landlords who refuse to improve living conditions for struggling tenants in the city, and his face suddenly takes on a disgusted look. Peloza grew up without parents or a permanent home before leaving high school to tour the seas on a Navy cruiser during the Korean Conflict.

Mention the plight of social services, and Peloza's eyes light up. He is among the first to extend a helpful hand and the first to put up a fight and seek solutions.

He spent 38 years with Boeing, 33 of them in management.

"You've got to have fire in the belly," he said of his long career of civic duty and volunteerism. "If you don't have that fire, then get out of office."

Mention the needs of suffering veterans, young and old, and Peloza pauses, reflects, then delivers a promise.

"We are here to help those in need," said Peloza, the commander of Auburn's nationally recognized Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1741. "We've got guys from World War II who still have post-traumatic (stress) syndrome (PTSD).

"We have one National Guard (soldier) who served in Iraq and lives here in Auburn. He's been through two PTSD programs in the last year. And what is his job? He's a gunner.

"We have to find ways to help these veterans."

VFW programs, whether symbolic or systemic, have been instrumental in helping connect veterans to services. The local VFW has 116 members, veterans who fought in World War II to Afghanistan, and the Post works directly with King County Veterans Affairs to help them meet their needs.

VFW Post 1741 specifically was cited nationally for its Flags for Food Bank program – a Peloza brainstorm that entailed retiring worn American flags properly and replacing them with new ones. In return, the Post asked recipients to make a contribution to the Auburn Food Bank on their behalf.

For his leadership and work, particularly with the VFW, Peloza has received his share of honors, perhaps none as high as being named grand marshal of Saturday's 45th Veterans Day Parade.

Jerry Hecker, the state VFW commander, couldn't attend and appointed Peloza to lead the parade, which will pay special tribute to the VFW.

"It's a distinguished honor. I will wear a white hat," Peloza said. "I've never visualized myself in that position, ever."

The November weekend is a special one for Peloza. He has been a part of the parade and observance for as long as he can remember.

"It's a unique ceremony to honor those who have served our country and for those who keep our country free," said Peloza, whose son Christian, and daughter, Dawn, served in the Air Force. "And to take part in the parade … is extremely significant."

For Peloza, the significant work continues. With his wife of 53 years, Joyce, by his side, he is determined to finish more projects. Together, they have done much to help Auburn in many capacities. To them, such acts of kindness have become second nature.

"We consider ourselves professional volunteers, we really do," Peloza said. "We love to help those in the community we live in. We feel we should give something back."

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