This is Bill. In 1997 when we were both working at the Department of Natural Resources in Spooner, Wisconsin, Bill showed me this strange new thing called the Internet. He typed out a sample of this language called HTML and presto! A web page appeared. Of course, what we know as the Internet didn’t exist then, so I had no idea what the future held. I’d once worked in the print industry and he said I’d be a natural at this. Thus began my 20-year career in websites.
It would be an understatement to claim that Bill gave generously of his knowledge, expertise and time. At DNR he’d watch as I very, very slowly got to my AhHa moment, my less-logical brain fighting its way through the technical tangle. To the White Board he’d go, drawing out the problem so I could envision what he’d already figured out. He was so smart.
Bill was the epitome of Problem Solver. One who would cut through the noise and arrive quietly at the solution. Then. Always. A walk outside to set all the concepts in order. Discuss the alternatives. Understand the reasoning. Set it in concrete.
Shortly after I met Bill, I got to know his wife, Jan. I loved going to their home tucked into the hillside on Deep Lake where Jan and Bill made my family welcome so many times. Jan’s brisket! It’s a rare meal you remember 20 years later. Their genuine warmth and friendship. Jan patiently letting Bill and I talk shop. Her cozy, welcoming home… lending a hand at my house with my crazy decorating schemes – so talented. Both of them friends in the truest sense.
When I told my son on the phone that Bill had died, there was a pause. Then he said, “He was always so kind to me.” Yes. Yes he was. It was a natural kindness without a bit of bs. The stuff that doesn’t need a bunch of thinking. Just there. Instinctive.
Once, Bill came out to help build steps on our steep bank down to the lake – he was an experienced builder of hillside steps! It was Bill and me and my 12-year-old son working hard in the summer heat digging, leveling, sweating, setting timbers. That’s where I saw the quiet attention to a boy who’d lost his father. Nothing spoken. Just a subtle respect for a kid who was working hard for his mom. My boys will always remember Bill and Jan for their natural graciousness.
Bill is one of those people who will never NOT be alive. Not only that he’ll live on in our memories. But that what he did so naturally will continue through time — through his own children and grandchildren. And through those who knew him, whether long-term or briefly. We change lives in ways we may never fully realize.
So, Bill, my friend. I hope that in heaven there are plenty of knotty problems to work out. And a really big whiteboard to illustrate what you mean to those who lag a bit behind your quick intellect.
Cheers, Bill. And thanks for everything you brought to our lives. You have enriched us beyond belief.