17 August 2011

For Bill in NH California

I can't remember exactly when "Bill in New Hampshire" first started commenting on this blog. I think it was about 2½ years ago. If you've been reading the blog and the comments for a while, you surely know him. His were the comments that often made you — or me, anyway — laugh out loud. They were always good-natured and sensible. The humor never felt forced and was generously shared.

"Bill in NH" on his 2009 visit to Saint-Aignan

Bill became "Bill in California" a year or more ago, when he and his wife Mary moved from NH to Modesto to be closer to family. They had lived in California, including in the SF Bay Area, way back when, for 20 years. He was happy to be back there, and wrote in an e-mail:
"Well, we've gotten mostly settled in but I still quiver and cower at the sight of a cardboard box. We couldn't have done it without the help of our children and grandchildren. It's being a lot of fun being this close to them; we've always all hit it off well with each other with much humor involved. Giggling with bright teenagers makes Grandpère feel young again."
Bill in California sent me this a few months ago, captioned
"Best product award for the 350th year in a row...."

Bill had also traveled to France several times over the years, including a trip to Saint-Aignan a long time ago, evidently. In the summer of 2009, he wrote to me and said he wanted to return to Saint-Aignan and stay again in the Grand Hôtel down on the river. He wanted to meet me and Walt. Here's how he introduced himself, to prepare us for the visit:
"It seems unfair that I know so much about you whereas you know almost nothing about me. In very brief, I'm a 69-year-old retired software developer who grew up in Minnesota, spent 20 years in California, 3 years in Boston, 2 years in Edinburgh, and now 18 years in balmy New Hampshire. I'm an affable geezer who loves France. My first visit was a business trip in about 1965 to Paris. I should have just stayed there. I have no criminal record as long as you don't count 'creating a public disturbance' while protesting at a Sarah Palin rally. If I had a religious affiliation it would be with the New England chapter of the Holy Moley Society. I spend much of my time now supporting a dog rescue group and vicariously living in France via the internet."
He took the train down from Paris in September and we picked him up at the gare d'Onzain. We had lunch at a restaurant called L'Herbe Rouge in the village called Valaire — here's a link to the post I wrote about it.

Walt and Bill after lunch at our house in mid-September 2009.

Bill loved France, dogs, and wine, he told us. How could we not hit it off? And his humor. Here's an example of a joke he sent us:
An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman, a Gurkha, a Latvian, a Turk, an Aussie, a German, a Yank, an Egyptian, a Japanese, a Mexican, a Spaniard, a Russian, a Pole, a Lithuanian, a Swede, a Finn, an Israeli, a Romanian, a Bulgarian, a Serb, a Swiss, a Greek, a Singaporean, an Italian, a Norwegian, a Libyan, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Zulu, an Indabele, a Xhosa, an Afrikaner, and an Ethiopian walk into a night club.

The bouncer says, "Sorry, I can't let you in without a Thai."
Groan. LOL. Before the trip, he asked me for copies of a few of the photos of Callie the Collie that I had posted here over the months and years. As I knew he loved dogs, I didn't think much about it. When Bill came to Saint-Aignan, he brought us this set of photos that he had had printed and framed for us. They hang on a wall downstairs now.

When our friend Jean-Luc died here in Saint-Aignan a month or two after Bill's visit, I think I wrote something about how my father died suddenly in his sleep at age 64. Bill told me in an e-mail:
"My father also died suddenly, at age 59, of a stroke. He was on an airplane and had just finished sharing a joke with a friend. After a few moments his friend looked over and he was dead, still with a smile on his face. That's what I'd like."
And that is what has happened. I got an e-mail day before yesterday from Bill's wife Mary telling me that Bill died suddenly last Friday, August 12. He was 71. He had been in declining health for a while. I'll always remember him with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. I wish he had been able to bring his family and friends to France for one more trip, as he told me he dreamed of doing. He asked us if we knew of a big gîte near Saint-Aignan that could accommodate a crowd.

That's not going to happen now. I'm just glad he had the gumption to tell us he was coming to Saint-Aignan back in 2009 and that he wanted to meet us and (I think especially) Callie. I'll miss his e-mails and his comments. Rest in peace, Bill.


  1. What a good post for such a gentleman. As you say, R I P Bill.

  2. I'm so sorry that Bill is no longer. He once commented on a comment I had posted on your blog. And although I can't remember what he wrote or what it was about, I do recall that it was very funny and really to the point. I'm sure we'll all miss him. Please give my condoleances to his wife and family. Martine

  3. So sorry to hear about Bill. Sudden death is what everyone should hope for themselves, but what a shock for the family and those who are left behind! My heart goes to them. These days, 71 is too young to die! RIP Bill.

  4. Please for Christ sake help this poor boy from Haiti.

  5. Oh, this is sad news. I am, of course, glad that it happened quickly, but we'll certainly feel his loss here. I always enjoyed his clever comments, and remember thinking how great it was that you all were able to visit together that one time. I'm glad that his wife knew how to contact you. Rest in peace, Bill.


  6. I'm sorry to hear this news. I will miss him too ~ I always enjoyed his comments on your blogs.

  7. Thank you, Ken, for such a nice posting. Bill was a friend of mine for 20+ years. I found out about his death when his wife called the next morning. I wasn't particularly surprised (although still shocked), because his health had been declining for some years. He had tried to organize a gite-sharing trip to the St. Aignan area a couple of years ago, but things fell through. Too bad it never happened.

  8. Such a kind tribute to your friend. Rest in peace, Bill. You have enjoyed our world from both continents. Blogging has brought friendships in the most unlikely places.

  9. Sorry and sad to hear about Bill.

    A couple of times he did comment on my comments and I always wondered whether he was the same Bill who was a regular poster on another blog that I follow ( written by a Vietnam war colonel) but I didn't want to ask him.

    R.I.P Bill.

  10. Thanks for writing such a beautiful tribute to our friend, Bill. It is in fact a eulogy that will give peace to Bill's wife, friends and family.

    I'm glad he was part of our little community here and that you were able to meet. It's a blessing to have people like you who make our world bigger by your blogs. Today I needed a kleenex, I'm going to miss Bill.

  11. Such very sad news. But wonderful that you did get to meet Bill and also that his wife was able to let you know this news. I've lost two friends that I only knew through the internet and some people have simply vanished.... Your post was a lovely tribute to Bill.

    I agree with chm that 71 is too young to die.

  12. Oh, what sad news! "Bill in NH" was such a great contributor to your blogs and we will all miss him. Ken, I hope that his wife reads your tribute to him, it's beautiful.

  13. BettyAnn and all, I'm sure Bill's wife Mary will see the post at some point. She told me she reads the blog, and I asked her permission to write about Bill today. She will appreciate all your comments.

    Bob, I know you lost a good friend. Bill spoke often and highly of you, especially of your trip to the Gard a few years ago.

  14. Bill showed a sparkling personality in his comments on your blogs. In fact, it was by his wit that I figured out that Bill in NH had become Bill in California.

    Ken, you bring a lot of people together, in a sense, through your blog.

    Our sympathy goes to Bill's family and friends.

  15. Very sad news. Bill made me laugh out loud often. Mary was very lucky to have been married to such a kind and funny man. I wish I had been able to meet him too.

  16. He sounds like a wonderful person. Parts of the way you described him made me think of my Dad.

  17. Nice work. He had an adventurous spirit. I laughed at the French Army Knife. It is so good to meet random people like Bill. I will be doing so on Sunday, and I am nervous about it, but it has always gone well in the past.

  18. oh that is sad....I will miss his funny comments too...I remember him from way back on this blog.....what a nice tribute Ken

  19. As soon as I started reading this post, I knew where it was going. Sorry for your loss and his family.

  20. Oh, what a lovely tribute Ken. I will miss Bill's comments, but I will always think of him with a smile because that's what his comments made me do. RIP Bill.

  21. I'm so sad to hear of Bill's passing, but so glad that we met him through you, Ken. I'll miss him and will remember him warmly.

  22. I'm sorry to hear Bill has died. His comments were always a hoot.

  23. I did not see that coming in your post. As everyone else has said, I'll miss Bill's comments. Having lived for a period in NH, I have a soft spot for fellow inmates.


  24. Oh Ken, how sad. My condolences. What a nice tribute to Bill.

  25. What a lovely tribute to Bill, Ken. That we all might
    leave such a legacy of smiles as we slip through
    this life...humor is such
    a precious gift when shared.
    Our world is poorer for
    Bill's passing. Condolences
    to those who loved him.

  26. Your post today had me in tears. What a touching tribute to an obviously great man.
    Barb in MN

  27. I just got home from a short trip to find this. How sad. You've written a beautiful tribute.


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