For more than 36 years, Bill Hester has been building educational and entertaining exhibits for employees and visitors to VA Central Office and other VA facilities.
In fact, by his count, Hester has built about 400 exhibits on anything and everything to do with U.S. Veterans of every race, origin and era.
Among them, Hester has built exhibits extolling Medal of Honor recipients, Native American Veterans, Women Veterans, Asian American Veterans, and benefits, health care and burial services available to all U.S. Veterans for their honorable service.
“I come to work every day, smile on my face and I’ve done been doing this for 36 years and I work 10 hour days… I work long hours,” Hester said. “But I enjoy my work. I enjoy the staff that work for us here in the VA at central office, and… I had a good run.”
Hester was a major contributor to permanent museums at VA facilities in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles. He built a model traveling Vietnam Wall that was displayed at VA facilities all over the country.
His latest work is “Reflections of Vietnam,” a salute to Vietnam Veterans for the 50th Anniversary of that war’s beginning. It’s on display in the lobby of VA Central Office through the end of the year.
A Vietnam Veteran himself on an Air Force squadron servicing fighter jets for the war, Hester worked on the exhibit for 10 months. He planned to retire with more than 40 years in federal service in early January, but now may stay on through March to take “Reflections of Vietnam” to Hawaii for an international convention of the U.S. and its six primary allies in the war.
“I’m going to have to follow this through… exactly… to make sure that everything is set up properly,” Hester said with a bigger than usual smile and a lot of pride in his voice.
Everyone who has been around VA Central Office for more than a few months knows Hester’s smiling face and huge laugh. He will surely be missed when he finally leaves his workshop for the last time.