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Remembering Bill Tinsman, a giant in Lumberville


Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the location of Chandler Hall. It is in Newtown.

Bill Tinsman, scion of a Bucks County lumber dynasty and a pioneer environmentalist, died Sunday, Aug. 6, at Chandler Hall in Newtown.

He had been diagnosed with brain cancer exactly a year to the day before his death, his sister, Patsy Tinsman said Wednesday.

He was 75 and he and his family were immeasurably entwined with the tiny village of Lumberville, where he spent his life.

When people think of Bill they recall his warmth and his environmental passions — and of course, the flag.

The weekend after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Bill and his son, Will, hung a 12-foot-by-19-foot American flag on the Lumberville-Raven Rock pedestrian bridge. They consistently replaced weather-beaten ones ever since.

His sister said he’d had a wonderful birthday party in May on the deck at the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville with the flag flying on the bridge over the Delaware River. “It was a gorgeous evening — a wonderful memory,” she said.

Even as tributes to Bill flowed in this week, the family “was still in shock,’’ she said.

Bill and his brother, Tom, who survives him, have been the fifth generation of Tinsmans to operate Tinsman Bros. Inc.

A fixture since 1785 in the riverside community in Solebury, the lumberyard is believed to be the oldest family-owned one in the country.

Bill’s strong belief in community involvement paid homage to his Quaker ancestors who settled in Lumberville in the 18th century.

A member of Solebury Friends Meeting, he was educated at George School, a private Friends school in Middletown Township, before joining the family business.

His sister said it was not just the Quaker influence but the influence of her parents, who were environmentalists long before the movement became popular.

“Bill always did the right thing,” she said.

Laura Thompson Barnes, vice president of The Thompson Organization, owner of the Black Bass Hotel, called Bill “an ambassador to Lumberville.

She described him as “warm and supportive to all and he always seemed to genuinely have a twinkle in his eye when he engaged you in a conversation.

“We named one of our suites at the Black Bass Hotel after the Tinsman family. He clearly was very touched by this,” she added.

Both Bill and his late father, Bill Tinsman Jr. had served as Solebury Township supervisors.

Mark Baum Baicker, current supervisor chairman, said the younger Bill was on the board from 2000 to 2005.

“He was just active in every important environmental event, he was president of the Paunacussing Watershed Association — just engaged across the board. We all love Bill,” he said.

On Tuesday, the township posted a memorial message on its website. It read, “Today we take a moment to honor Bill’s life and all of his achievements. There is no doubt that he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts go out today to his family, friends and loved ones.”

Megan and Ken Peterson have known Bill and his wife, Melody Hunt, since 1990 when they moved to Lumberville.

“Bill was such a lovely dear man, a solid friend, a lot of fun, very social, a wonderful husband to Melody and a great father.

“He was one of the first people we turned to for advice and one of the first to step up when help was needed (like during the floods in 2004-2006). He was knowledgeable in so many areas and very curious. He would do anything for others and often probably overextended himself doing it. My husband loved to call him the Mayor of Lumberville.”

Bridget Wingert wrote a column in the Herald in 2019 when Bill MacDowell introduced Bill Tinsman as Solebury Township’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year. She quoted MacDowell, a previous winner, as saying, “Bill Tinsman was a driving force in local organizations. He has supported Bucks Audubon, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, the Delaware River Flooding Task Force, the Paunacussing Watershed Association and the Delaware Wild and Scenic River task force.

“He is ‘an alpha male,’ who uses the ‘alpha’ largely on behalf of civil and human rights, and on causes important to all of us...clean water, clean air and science-based issues.”

Bill Tinsman’s legacy speaks for itself.

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