He had a fairly large family. There were six children; ten grandchildren; and eleven great-grandchildren. That’s not counting nieces, nephews, and cousins. The church was packed. It was filled with people from so many different professions, religious beliefs, and political affiliations. They were all friends. Bill’s only adversaries were self-proclaimed. And they probably worked for a government.
Bill was one of the original peaceniks. The program carried the phrase of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” He was the first member of Iowa’s Veterans for Peace. He was a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and served in leadership positions. And he has protested at incidents that have lead to his arrest. Jean once told us that most parents worry that their children will end up in jail. In this family, the children worry that Bill and Jean would end up in jail – and they have.
Bill was an amazing man. His signature was his hug and the occasional offering of a peppermint lozenge. Everything he did he did with a smile. He knew the Bible and understood the message that many passages brought. He wasn’t a preacher, just a teacher. He didn’t use his biblical mastery to pummel unbelievers. He simply lived the example.
The service itself was a reflection of the man. Bill was a medical missionary. With Jean, they began in Japan (6 years) and followed up in South Korea (six years). During these 12 years they raised a family. And when they came back to the United States, they didn’t stop practicing their missionary skills. Many of the trips they have taken to over 50 countries since their time in Japan/Korea have been for medical missionary purposes.
A trip to Burma was brought up more than once during Bill’s memorial service. Bill taught the children how to sing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” in English. As they were traveling down the mountain, they could hear the children singing that song at the top of their lungs. That’s why we sang it as a congregation during this afternoon’s service.
And being the Peacenik that Bill was, we also sang “We shall overcome”.
Bill believed there was good in everyone and would actively seek it out. A collection of quotes that he had collected were found by Jean. A few were shared during the service. We can only paraphrase the one that stood out for us since the quotes went by so quickly: The values of government can be measured by how its money is designated. For Bill’s memory, we will give it a valiant attempt to find good in politicians that do not come even close to sharing our value system.
We came away from the memorial service with a song in our heart and a renewed sense of working for justice. Bill’s spirit will live on.