Bill Dunwiddie passed away peacefully in Bozeman, Montana on March 20 after a long and happy life. To all who knew him, he was a constant source of inspiration for a life well-lived. He cared deeply for others, and took great satisfaction in giving back to his community in numerous ways. As a teacher for over 30 years, chairman of the high school social studies department in Neenah, and coach of the debate team, he is remembered by generations of students for his enthusiasm, good humor, and encouragement to excel. He co-authored his own textbook, 'Problems of Democracy,' which was widely used in high schools across the country. He received a John Hay Fellowship to attend Harvard in 1961-62, and was nationally recognized as one of the top ten teachers of the year in 1964. He served as chairman of the Neenah Park and Recreation Commission for many years, and authored a book entitled 'The Parks of Neenah' in 1993. Throughout his life, Bill was deeply involved in civic issues; he was the Red Cross disaster chairman for several years, and was frequently a vocal and effective supporter for numerous liberal causes.
In 1955, together with his wife, Mary Jane, and several friends, Bill helped found the Fox Valley Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, which grew out of his strong belief in the importance of people joining together to help one another. He remained a dedicated member for the rest of his life, and was delighted to see the fellowship continue to flourish and grow.
Bill was born in Fox Lake, Wisconsin in 1920 to Walter and Ina Dunwiddie, and together with his brother Foster, grew up in Port Washington. He married Mary Jane Vroman in 1942, and after serving in the Navy in World War II, they settled in Neenah in 1949 to raise their family. Bill's life was greatly enriched by his diverse interests, many of which he shared with his wife and their four children - Alice, Jean, Tom, and Peter. Music was a life-long passion, from his early days playing in the University of Wisconsin marching band, later singing tenor in barbershop quartets, playing recorder in family ensembles, to his support for the Fox Valley Symphony. He loved travelling and the outdoors, taking lengthy camping, backpacking, and canoe trips nearly every summer. After retiring from teaching in 1983, he and Mary Jane expanded their travels to include many international destinations, eventually visiting over 30 countries. He was an avid photographer, and loved to document these trips with color slides. Later, many favorite photos became the subjects for his paintings, which covered his walls. His interests reflected his life-long devotion to learning. New skills, ideas, games, jokes, books - all brought him immense pleasure. After 92 years as a Wisconsin resident, he moved to be closer to family in Bozeman, where he continued to make new friends and thrive among the mountains he loved.
Bill will be particularly remembered for his good-natured humor, which only increased with age. Even after losing his wife and oldest son, Tom, in 2001, he continued to enjoy the humor of life. His warm chuckle brought smiles for many, even in difficult times. In honor of his desire "to put the fun back in funerals," an ice cream social celebrating Bill's life will be held on June 14 at the FVUU Fellowship. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in his memory to the "Bill Dunwiddie Memorial Scholarship Fund" for the Neenah Joint School District, c/o the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation (www.oshkoshareacf.org), 230 Ohio St., Suite 100, Oshkosh, WI 54902, or towards a Dunwiddie memorial piano at the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, PO Box 1791, Appleton, WI 54912.
Published in Appleton Post-Crescent on Mar. 23, 2014