I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Bill Gommel. I have fond recollections of Astronomy Club and the classes taught by Dr. Gommel, and I'd like to share one of those memories.
Every fall Dr. and Mrs. Gommel hosted a fall cookout for Sigma Zeta (Science Fraternity) at their home on Lawrence Avenue just west of South Keystone, not far from the U of I campus. Faculty and students always enjoyed this little outing, and the Gommels had a nice backyard which bordered some woods that sloped downhill to Lick Creek--perfect for a campfire.
Back in 1982-83, I was the president of S?, so I helped organize the cookout. I told some other students that I would arrive at the Gommels' home early then wait at the street to be sure everyone located the right house. Meanwhile, Dr. Gommel was back in the woods, clearing brush and tending the campfire. While I waited in front of the house, I heard a siren far off--from the fire station just west of University Heights Methodist Church on Hanna Avenue. The siren got louder and louder. From my vantage point in front of Dr. Gommel's house, I saw a fire truck pass by, going southbound on Keystone but slowing to a stop. I ran to the backyard! Apparently Dr. Gommel had gotten over-enthusiastic with his fire-building as the flames were scorching tree branches some 20 feet off the ground. The fire crew was unable to run a water line from a hydrant, so they parked their truck at the bridge on Keystone and climbed down the embankment with portable fire extinguishers strapped to their backs. They sprayed Dr. G's fire to bring it under control.
Completely unfazed, Dr. G., in his folksy way asked the firemen, “You fellas want to join us for some weenies?”
For his humble ways and kindness to students, Dr. Gommel will be greatly missed.