OBERLIN — Z William "Bill" Colson Jr., age 89, of Oberlin, Ohio, passed away Thursday, July 10, 2014, at his home under the care of New Life Hospice. His wife B.D., son Mark, and his caretaker Diane were present.
He was born on Nov. 18, 1924, in Lawrence, Mass., to Dr. Z William and Elisabeth (nee Hamer) Colson. Bill graduated from Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pa. Upon his graduation he enrolled at Yale University where he began his studies. He left Yale to enlist with the United States Army, serving his country as an MP during World War II. Bill was also part of the D-Day Invasion, arriving in Paris a week after Normandy Beach had been taken. After being honorably discharged from the army he went back to Yale to complete his studies and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. He then went on to earn his master's degree in theology from the Chicago Theological Seminary. In 1983 he received an honorary doctorate from Olivet College in Olivet, Mich. For his lifelong service to country, community, and congregation, he was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club.
Bill made his career as a minister in the Congregational Church - United Church of Christ. During the course of his ministry he served churches in Quincy, Mass., Laconia, N.H., Chicago, Ill., and finally served the longest in Charlotte, Mich., from 1967 until 1988. He served many churches in an interim capacity for several years after leaving Charlotte. Bill truly loved people – people from all walks of life. He had a gift for being able to see the best in everyone and he helped them honor the best in themselves. He was loved by many for his gentle and compassionate spirit.
Bill had a true love of the arts. He performed with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society while at Yale, then took great joy in revisiting that passion in his retirement with the University of Michigan G&S Society. He said that one of his greatest accomplishments was directing and producing Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde in the Charlotte church. He partnered with Olivet College to provide the principle voices and orchestra, with church members and children providing sets, costumes, and supporting roles. He was also an active member of the Charlotte Civic Theater. In his retirement he trained as a docent for the University of Michigan Museum of Art and delighted in sharing his love of art with groups of school children. He took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy professional opera, often traveling to Detroit and Chicago for performances. He always bought tickets in the standing room section, not because they were more affordable, but because he could not contain his exuberance in a seat. He delighted in watching the progression of Mark's acting career. He successfully instilled his love of the arts in all his children and grandchildren.
Though he spent most of his adult life in the Midwest, Bill loved the ocean and always identified himself as a New Englander. He always spoke with affection about his boyhood summers in Marblehead, Mass., serving as first mate to his father on many family boats. He continued to spend time in New England with his beloved sisters and their families throughout his life until he was no longer able to travel.
He is both mourned and celebrated by his wife of 55 years, B.D. Colson; daughter, Sarah, and her husband, John Leo Cavanaugh; his son, Mark and his wife, Janet; grandchildren Katherine, Sophie and Nora Cavanaugh, and Adele, Forrest and Fiona Colson; and sisters Elisabeth (Betty) Colson Tierney and Jane Colson Englert.
A memorial gathering will be held on Saturday, Aug. 2 at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational Church, 106 Bostwick St. S., Charlotte, MI 48813.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggest contributions be made in memory of Bill to the First Congregational Church in Charlotte.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.dovinreberjones.com.