Post Gazette: Welcome to Bill’s Dock – Estate of fishing enthusiast finances riverfront dock in Aspinwall

Welcome to Bill’s Dock: Estate of fishing enthusiast finances riverfront dock in Aspinwall

APR 19, 2018 1:54 PM
When it opens on the banks of the Allegheny River at Aspinwall Riverfront Park in June, Bill’s Dock will be more than a tribute to a man who loved fishing. It will symbolize a love of family as well.

The dock is named for William Cadwallader, who loved fishing and hosting gatherings for his extended family at his home in Crafton. Mr. Cadwallader died in 2017 and the dock project was financed by proceeds from his estate, according to his niece, Robin Durr, who is active with Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

Mr. Cadwallader and his sister Marjorie lived together in Crafton their whole lives after their parents died. The only time they were apart was while Bill served in the U.S. Air Force from 1950 to 1954. When he came home, they both worked at Duquesne Light Co., Bill for 35 years, retiring as a master mechanic; Marj as an executive secretary.

Because they had no other family, they opened their home and celebrated with their cousins every holiday and shared its space with any relatives who needed a place to stay during difficulties in their lives, Mrs. Durr said.

When Bill wasn’t working, he spent much of his free time outdoors. Marj was a devoted parishioner at the Crafton Methodist Church who sang soprano in the choir. In January 2017, at the age of 88, Marjorie passed away. Part of her estate was used to fund a scholarship for rising sopranos with the Pittsburgh Opera.

Shortly afterward, Bill told his niece he wasn’t feeling well, so she took him to the doctor.

“We had no idea he was even sick,” Mrs. Durr said. Tests determined that he had brain cancer, which quickly spread throughout his body and he died three months later, in March 2017.

While her uncle was still alive, “we talked about what was dear to his heart,” she said. “He loved to fish and was a great outdoorsman,” Mrs. Durr said.

He often helped kids without families by sharing his love of the outdoors and fishing, she said. It was his way of giving back. Growing up during the Depression, living with his grandparents, the men in his own neighborhood had introduced him to the outdoors, taking him fishing, hunting and skiing, Mrs. Durr said.

That’s why, with the money he made from a lifetime of working at Duquesne Light as well as the money his sister bequeathed to him, his family decided to open the outdoors to others, as Bill liked to do when he was alive.

“He loved to fish because, during the Depression when there was no money, fishing was free,” his niece said.

Mrs. Durr, who has been involved in the development of Aspinwall Riverfront Park since its inception, chose it as the site for a floating dock that can be used for fishing or simply a place to enjoy a view of the Allegheny River.

Her own daughter, Claire, filled her volunteer requirement to graduate from Fox Chapel Area High School in 2015 by weeding and watering plants on Saturdays and her husband, David, has also contributed to the park.

“I think that park is just a wonderful resource to the community,” Mrs. Durr said.

Image Description
An artist rendering of what the new fishing dock in Aspinwall will look like when it is completed.
(Aspinwall Riverfront Park)
The fishing dock will feature hanging chairs over a mesh section of flooring which will allow park visitors to look into the water while they are swinging. It will be accessed through a handicapped accessible gangway, which can be locked when the park is closed. The dock will also feature a “flyover” segment where people can walk out over the Allegheny River.

Mrs. Durr said she explained Bill’s vision to Susan Crookston, executive director of the park, and the the board of directors. “They did a great job,” she said.

They involved the VA Hospital in Aspinwall and Venture Outdoors, which already have a handicapped fishing program, to make sure the dock is wheelchair-accessible because Mr. Cadwallader was in the Air Force and helping other veterans enjoy the outdoors was very important to him, she said.

Aspinwall Riverfront Park was created in 2011 with a $2.3 million grant from Allegheny County to purchase the property plus thousands more raised by families and students in the Aspinwall area.

It has grown to include an artistic and creative play area for children, comfortable riverfront seating, a kayaking venue and a home to gardens featuring native plants. During warm months it is home for yoga classes and children’s programs. It recently was named one of three great green spaces in the state by the American Planning Association of Pennsylvania and is expected to add another state award as early as this month.

“It’s been a great community effort,” said Mrs. Crookston.

Rita Michel, freelance writer,

Join the Conversation

Post a new comment


Ken Hernandez2 hours ago
The Aspinwall Riverfront Park is simply gorgeous and worth a visit from anyone living in the Pittsburgh area