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Friday, February 10, 2006

Bill John Remembered by Karin Smith

We’re here this morning to remember and give thanks for the life of our own Bill John – a kind and gentle man we came to know, love and admire.

A devoted husband to Ruth, his soul mate of 63 years, and caring father to Katherine, Mary, Bill and Patricia and their spouses, and a most proud grandfather and great-grandfather.

We remember Bill as a good and a wise man, enthusiastic and cheerfully optimistic; a man of integrity, who gave generously of himself in service to others, to his church and his community; a good neighbour and kind, considerate friend; a benevolent teacher, school librarian, chorister, occasional thespian and so much more – “a man for all seasons.”

We also remember a man passionate in his love for music which his daughter Mary likened to “Dad’s Magnificent Obsession” referring of course to his vast and expansive musical library. YES, music was a life-long passion for Bill. A long-standing member of the Litchfield County Choral Union he would joyfully and enthusiastically sing from his heart and soul. Tanglewood Summers with Ruth and Bill were special events and a tradition, combined with occasional ventures to the Met, or the Bushnell and other places that create music.

One of my personal recollections about Bill was, that after hearing an unfamiliar piece of music on WMNR Fine Arts Radio, I had phoned Bill to inquire and learn more about that particular musical selection. You could ask Bill anything – he had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge, especially about music.

Woe to the unsuspecting soul, hoping for a quick answer. You had to be prepared for a most thorough lesson on the subject in question, which would include a “biopic” of the composer, a complete run-down of recorded works rated by the Penguin Classical Music Guide and most likely the actual copy of work, on LP, Tape or CD delivered to your doorstep that same day. Oftentimes, he would call back later with additional information.

The other evening, listening to a delightful musical offering unfamiliar to me, my first thought was to call Bill …

Allow me to share with you, this short quotation by a 19th Century American theologian, William Henry Channing. It is entitled “My Symphony” and so eloquently speaks to the essence of Bill John, as we remember him.

To live content with modest means;
to see elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and
wealthy, not rich;
to listen to stars and birds,
babes and sages, with open heart;
to study hard; think quietly, act frankly,
talk gently wait occasions, hurry never.
In a word, let the Spiritual, unbidden and
Unconscious, grow up through the Common—

This is to be my symphony

Bill John’s good works and most of all his humanity will live on in memory and continue to inspire all of us to live as he did – joyously and spiritually grounded.

Karin Smith
Saturday, November 19, 2005

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