• Marrs-Jones-Newby Funeral Home
    Bastrop, TX
In partnership with the Dignity Memorial® network
William "Bill" Rich 1924 - 2016

William "Bill" Rich

This Guest Book has been kept open by Marrs-Jones-Newby Funeral Home.
January 18, 2017
Good afternoon. In an Episcopal funeral, we always cover the casket with a pall rather than with flowers or the American Flag or other tribute to who a person was in life. We do this to be reminded that we are all humbled by death in the end. We come before God as we are known to Him, not as we have been known and honored by the world. But that's not to say that how we live in this world doesn't matter. A human life is a gift from God, meant to be lived to its fullest. We have much reason this afternoon to celebrate the long and accomplished life of Bill Rich even as we release him to God's care.

Bill and I both arrived in Bastrop and at Calvary in 2010 and soon discovered we shared the same birthday, which was to my benefit, since he always had a birthday cake and I didn't, and I was always invited to his party. Although Parkinson's had already affected his speech, Bill conveyed a sharp intelligence and challenging inquisitiveness that kept me on my toes. We didn't talk about the weather. Near the end of his life, when speech was extremely different, Bill's eyes still conveyed a piercing intellect and sense of connection. I had no trouble believing that he had been an Eagle Scout, or decorated for service in the Pacific Theater in World War ll, or an electrical engineer whose first career took him to oil fields and refineries in South America and the Middle East, allowed him to travel to the great cities of the world, and involved him in projects like
bringing electricity to ancient desert cities. It didn't surprise me to learn that after retiring from his first career, he not only became an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts, but began a second twenty-year career as a Civilian Engineer at Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri.

His family tells me that Bill was exceptionally devoted to his work, but he had another side. Bill loved music and dancing, theater and opera. He played outdoors as hard as he worked; he loved electronic gadgets and motorcycles, which he sometimes rode to surprising placeslike the three-week trip Bill made with a friend from Italy to Saudi Arabia. Bill was not the typical family man, but he knew the importance of family, nourishing his ties to his family's past, present, and future. His career as an engineer may have been his passion, but he was determined to share it with his children, Lisa and Steve. He would bring them to work, even when it meant a trip on a helicopter or hovercraft, and he made sure that they witnessed extraordinary things that few of us ever see, like villages in the dessert that had remained unchanged for 1000 years, or the time in Kuwait that he drove them to a bluff from which could watch an oil rig burn into a twisted tangle of iron and feel the intense heat of a blown well.

When it was time for Bill to retire from the oil business, Bill returned to his family roots, to his grandparents' hometown of Warrensburg, Missouri, where he re-established old friendships, spent a lot of time with Stephen who lived nearby, and built a home that was large enough for his children and grandchildren to visit. Near the end of his life, after securing the promise he would be buried with his ancestors in Warrensburg, he found deep contentment in his daughter's home in Smithville, particularly delighting in the visits of his great grandson and namesake, William. And at the very end of his life, it wasn't until Lisa returned home from Houston with the news that his grandson Henry had been born and was well that Bill finally released his hold on life.

The Bill I knew showed up faithfully for church on Sunday morning, sitting on the front row with other elders, especially his friends Betty Hetzel and Dolores Hestdalen of blessed memory. But Lisa tells me that until coming to Calvary in the final years of his life, Bill wasn't much of a churchgoer. He grew up Roman Catholic and attended parochial schools, enjoying an adversarial relationship with the nuns and clergy, who he apparently pushed to their limits. According to Bill, his family priest delayed his Eagle Scout award for more than six months by refusing to sign off on it as the honor required. I suspect Bill was proud of that distinction. Nevertheless, Bill told me more than once that as a very young man he had considered becoming a Roman Catholic priest, until he realized that he would have to choose between ordination and women. Women won. Bill knew himself well enough to know that he was called to engage life with all his passions, creativity and intelligence, and he did.

Although Bill found a season for religion in his old age, religion isn't necessarily the best gauge of a man's relationship with his God. That story is often told elsewhere, in a man's peace at the end of his life with himself and the universe. In his final years, Bill did perhaps the most extraordinary thing he had ever done, the most extraordinary thing any of us can do. He surrendered with incredible grace to the limitations of age and illness. Debilitated by Parkinson's, he recognized that he could no longer be independent. Instead of responding with bitterness and resentment, he accepted the help of his children with gratitude, trusting in their abilities as he had once trusted in his own.

Accepting what cannot be changed is the surest sign of spiritual maturity. That sort of humility, that sort of surrender, is a victory, not a defeat. It affirms that Bill knew he was held by something bigger than himself, something beyond anything he could achieve on his own. At the end of his life, I believe that Bill rested in a sense of worth that had nothing to do with his military or professional achievements. He was a beloved child of his creator, content to be nourished by the sacraments of the church and by the hands of his children and many caregivers. Despite the frustrations of a failing body that could no longer keep up with his will or mind, Bill was patient with those who waited upon his needs and blessed them with his gratitude.

Bill's confidence in his God was well-placed. In John's gospel, Jesus promises that nothing his Father has given him will be lost. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul assures us that nothing in this life, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Bill has been released from the mortal limitations of time and disease into the eternal possibilities of divine love. We can rejoice in the man that he was and in the God in whom he now rests. Amen.
January 06, 2017
The Houston Area Saudi Aramco/ASC Retirees' Luncheon Group will sorely miss Bill. He came to our September 2015 luncheon, with his daughter Lisa, and shared his photo album and memories of their time in Saudi Arabia. Our prayers are with his family.
January 02, 2017
My dear friend, you can walk, talk, free from Parkinson's and you are with your loved ones that have gone before you. I was truly grateful to be your hairdresser, one of your caretakers, but most of all your friend. I have many wonderful memories and you leave behind a great legacy. I thank you for your service in the military. R.I.P. my dear friend!!
To his family, I give my condolences. I thank you SunDown and Lisa for opening your beautiful home and inviting me in to care for him. I treated him as if he were my own, I loved him and will miss him.
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