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Bill Liesse


1965 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Bill Liesse Obituary

PEORIA - Bill Liesse, age 50, of Peoria passed away Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, as a result of heart failure, following recent surgery to mend a torn aorta.

Bill likely would roll his eyes and allege cliche crimes at the suggestion, but many who loved him have noted irony in the fact that the huge, loving, fiery heart at Bill's core wasn't, in the end, strong enough to sustain him. Bill was only 50, but his was a life well-lived.

He was a devoted husband and father of four and an ink-stained newspaper man whose career took him from his beloved University of Illinois, to desert cities out West, and then back to his home state, where he became the Peoria Journal Star's sports editor. A deeply unfortunate casualty of rampant newspaper layoffs, his voice disappeared from the pages of the Journal Star, but found a home on the stage, as an actor, director and board member for Peoria's Corn Stock Theatre.

Bill will be remembered for his keen and quick wit, as well as the energy and passion he brought to everything in which he engaged himself, be it sports, a batch of fresh garden salsa, journalism or his family. He could dominate any room or any conversation, but was a curious and thoughtful listener. His low growl of frustration was as unmistakable as his mirthful, mischievous giggle.

William Nicholas Liesse was born March 31, 1965, in Peru, lll., to Nick and Mary Jo (Wolfe) Liesse. He attended St. Patrick's Grade School and graduated from LaSalle-Peru High School in 1983. He earned a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Illinois, where he became an editor at the Daily Illini and delighted in covering the "Flying Illini" basketball team.

A career in sports journalism took him to Flagstaff, Ariz., and then Las Vegas, where he met Leaann Thornton at the Las Vegas Sun, where the two worked. The couple married in 1994 in Bill's hometown, and the two had four children, Richard Wolfe Liesse, Thomas Logan Liesse, Margaret Adeline Liesse and James Henry Liesse. All very different, but all sharing various talents and quirks of their parents, Bill adored and celebrated each one.

An Illinois man at heart, Bill returned in 1995 to be the assistant sports editor of the Peoria Journal Star, where his high standards and penchant for innovation became the norm in the sports department as the paper transitioned into the Internet age. He eventually became the sports editor, applying a love of sports that was spread evenly and liberally among high school, college, professional and amateur sports. He also took pride in his role as longtime organizer of the paper's Honor Roll track meet. He was a mentor to many former and current Journal Star employees, and his weekly NFL handicapping column was a study in astute sports writing and sly humor.

Even after he left the Journal Star in 2009, Bill continued to ply his trade as a freelance journalist and a sardonic blogger. He also threw himself into a wide array of endeavors, including graduate school, coaching his children's sports teams and becoming an active member of the Corn Stock Theatre. His Facebook feed was a testament to a life well-lived: beaming pictures of a father and his children, subversive headlines from "The Onion," observations of sports that were superior to anything in most newspapers, praises of outstanding meals and links to his favorite music. He loved Peoria and its people - athletes and bar owners, line workers and academics, grocers and politicians - and loved being part the community.

In the months before he died, Bill experienced life at its richest, from his perspective. He celebrated a Stanley Cup championship for his Blackhawks; he saw the Grateful Dead one last time; and he road-tripped with his son, Richard, to see the Cubs in the playoffs. Just a week before he fell ill, he was in Champaign, at his alma mater, for an Illini basketball game. He was, as all who knew him would expect, living large and laughing.

He is survived by his wife and children; his parents; brothers, Rick (Debby Read) Liesse of Houston and Tom Liesse of Chesterfield, Mo.; and sisters, Pat (Dan) Kubera of Palatine, Ill., Julie (Gary) Ryba of Charlotte, N.C., and Lynn (Gerry) Clark of Creve Coeur, Mo.; as well as eight nieces, six nephews and one great-niece.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, at Davison-Fulton Woodland Chapel, 2021 N. University St., Peoria, IL 61604. A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at St. Marks Church, 1113 W. Bradley Ave., Peoria, IL 61606. Additional visitation will be one hour prior to the services.

Memorials may be made to Bill and Leaann's children's education fund.

Please view Bill's obituary online at www.Davison-Fulton.com.

Published in Peoria Journal Star from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6, 2016
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