And I find myself typing away yet another eulogy. This one is particularly hard to swallow. I must have known Bill for more than 20 years. We were presidents of our respective Rotary clubs in 1988, which means that we attended the same training sessions, assemblies and conferences and went with our wives to many of those parties and anniversary balls. Typically, we would wait outside the rest room areas smoking away while our respective wives were in the ladies room.
I then learnt that he was a lawyer. He was young, charismatic and somewhat handsome. He carried himself rather well, but I would say he looked better with Helen by his side. I recall that the couple would often make an entrance amidst an admiring or envious audience. “We both had no children,” Helen told me on one occasion, to which I responded, “What a pity!”
A few years down the road, I met Bill again when I joined Freemasonry. We became closer as a result of the regular meetings, which were normally followed by serious drinking sessions. We had meetings abroad as well, sometimes with our wives when we would do some side travels together. I learnt that he was an excellent travel companion.
Other friends have written about his various talents and hobbies; and I cannot and would not expand them further. I found Bill a quiet and soft spoken person, but one that would always make his presence felt. Over time, I learnt that he was a rather private person with a personality larger than life. He was kind and considerate, full of wisdom and compassion, and very generous.
A young lawyer who was his protégée recalled that Bill had a brush with the law and had to answer in court over a charge of careless driving. This was the first and probably the last time he was charged for such an alleged offence. He knew his position very well and was confident that any magistrate or judge in his fair mind would find him innocent. At the time, this young lawyer was only newly qualified, such that no one would entrust her any case of significance. Bill gave her the case. With the skills and confidence Bill entrusted her, she easily won the case in court.
Bill had a very distinguished career as a Freemason. He had volunteered his talents and time to the many orders and chapters of which he was a member, generously and unconditionally; and there is no doubt in the minds of everyone in this institution that he would be sorely missed. You can feel the love and involvement of Bill for Freemasonry by going through one of the pages in this booklet.
I have a feeling that Bill excelled in everything he did because he would put so much passion in everything he did. At the time he fell ill, he had so much going for him. He had completed another Masters degree not so long ago and had made plans with his supervisor on a doctorate programme. He was discussing with me how to organize a birthday party for a friend who will turn 80 in October; and he was telling me how best to learn scuba diving. His diving friends were convinced that Bill would make an excellent instructor, but he was content to be an assistant. In like manner, he would hold a more junior and menial position than he should in a freemasonry order so as to make way for the more junior brethren to advance further.
Bill learnt about my plan to get married when he was undergoing treatment in March. Indeed, I had only known about the news not much earlier. He was very supportive and he volunteered to help me make out an invite list of Zetland Hall brethren. He also helped me send out the invites and organize the seating. When he showed up at my wedding, I was quietly happy that he would be well very soon.
When Bill found that my wife is a keen diver, he became very much alive. They had very joyful discussions on their diving experiences; and I could feel Bill’s keen and genuine empathy in Su’s recent diving expeditions and her sojourn in teaching me diving. We also showed Bill our wedding albums and videos. His eyes sparkled when he saw those pretty pictures and he began making snipe remarks about me, an illustration that his illness could never mask his love for his brethren, his compassion for life, and his very many diverse interests.
He must have thought that he would get well soon and be well enough to join the many parties and celebrations awaiting him. He seemed to be planning for the next cruise with Helen whom he loved dearly even though he did not always make a public showing of such love. He was examining very careful the cruise brochures we brought to his ward and was asking us sharp questions, a reflection of his ever alert and sanguine mind.
Today, we say farewell to a very dear friend, one who had had so much fun on land and under water, who had lived life to the full, who had loved his family and friends dearly, who had had more than one successful and rewarding career, who had contributed himself generously and selflessly to the community, who was truly a brother, and in short, who had lived respected and died regretted. As we pray for him and wish him continuing happiness in whatever he would be doing, our thoughts are with Helen whom he had married for over 40 years.
May he rest in peace.