Bill Lanning

Bill Lanning

Shhh…it’s a surprise party for old-timer Bill Lanning

Friends, customers invited to celebrate former owner of Bill’s Feed Tack

A wife wants to notify people of the upcoming June 23 surprise party for her husband, who’s turning 78.

So she calls the local newspaper and asks an article be written.

“Say what?” responds a bewildered reporter. “Then it won’t be a surprise.”

Don’t worry, she responds, “He doesn’t subscribe to your paper or go online to read it.”

What makes for a good punchline is also the sincere request of Amy Lanning of Sedro-Woolley, where she and husband Bill Lanning have lived since 2000.

But a few decades back, Bill Lanning was better known as the long-time owner of Bill’s Feed & Tack on Bayview Corner from 1974 to 1994.

Inside his big red barn is where local farmers, horse owners and others loaded up on hay, grain, pet food and horse supplies. Jeans, boots, hats and live chicks were also for sale.

He later bought the historic Bayview Cash Store.

“I want to let his former customers know about the birthday party,” Amy Lanning said. “It’s really an appreciation for a wonderful episode of his life and the people of South Whidbey.”

The party is at Bayview Hall June 23, 2 to 6 p.m., featuring the band Western Heroes.

In the 1980s, Lanning offered his land to start the Tilth Farmer’s Market, which has since moved north. The corner is now the site of the thriving Saturday Bayview Farmer’s Market.

Helping out the community, and farm animals, was also one of Lanning’s traits.

“One time he got a call from an older lady who said, ‘Bill, I can’t get out of the house because the turkeys are pecking on my windows and door,’” Amy recalled, “and off he went.”

Lanning also gave Maureen Murphy the break she needed to start a nursery in 1993.

“He told me, ‘Why don’t you just try it on my land near the barn,’” Murphy said. Pathways of flowers, shrubs, trees and all things green now spill over two acres of Bayview Farm & Garden; the old barn is now Flower House Cafe.

Lanning grew up on South Whidbey back in the day when deer killed on the road ended up on plates in the school cafeteria. Or so he claims.

In 1994, Lanning moved his family to Montana because he said Whidbey was losing its rural charm, Murphy remembers.

Wow, he really is in for a surprise.

Bill Lanning’s Surprise Party is 2-6 p.m. Saturday, June 23, Bayview Hall, 5642 Bayview Road. For information email to

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