Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. On Friday, Dec. 2, long-time resident Bill Allen passed away peacefully at his home in Nederland with four of his five sons and his wife at his side. He had been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer over a year ago, and even though he grew weak, he continued to work as long as possible in the woodworking shop he helped bring back to Nederland Middle Senior High School.
Since Bill arrived in Nederland in 1977, he has been a staunch member of the community, volunteering his time for many projects and volunteering his opinion on many subjects.
Bill was born on October 22, 1955 to parents Richard and Veronica Allen in Port Washington, New York. His father preceded him in death and a daughter, Veronica, preceded him in death.
A woodworker by trade, Bill started his own shop in Nederland building custom made cabinets for the locals. To guarantee an income he drove a school bus, winding his way around the Ridge Road route and also driving the athletic teams to away games or meets.
Although Bill liked to sport a rather grumpy demeanor, the kids who rode his bus remember him as being one of the nicest drivers, always kind and helpful.
During his school bus driving days, Bill also worked for the Mountain-Ear Newspaper as a columnist, which allowed him to express his opinions on what was happening in the world, but more importantly, what was happening in Nederland. He was outspoken and opinionated and people couldn’t wait to see what he was going to spout out about each week. Some of his columns were controversial, inspiring many letters to the editor.
Those days were just the beginning of Bill’s involvement in the town he had grown to love. He joined the library board even though he had voted against it, to see if the other board members could convince him it was a good idea. He was a member of the Nederland Board of Trustees and was one of the original founders of the Nederland Ice Rink, the first volunteer skate sharpener.
When the town’s fireworks display was in jeopardy, he put up his own money to guarantee payment to make sure it happened, to continue the tradition.
Bill became the Central City Transportation Department Supervisor. He was also an avid climber, teaching his sons and wife the basics. In 1982, he had his 15 minutes of fame when he traveled with a group of historians to the Philippines where they followed Emilio Aguinaldo’s original route of insurrection against the U.S. Bill was the climbing guy of the trek.
When Bill decided to move to Nederland, he saw a one room house perched on the site where the Train Cars now stand. There was a Free House sign on the building so he had it moved, eventually ending up in the Chipeta Park area.
His wife Marie says the house was heated by a wood stove which also dried all of their clothes as he didn’t believe in wasting energy on a dryer.
Marie says, “Bill believed in a simple life. He thought people made things more complicated than they needed to be. He had hoped that when he retired, he would be able to write.”
When Bill retired from his position with the BVSD Transportation Department, he decided that he wanted to bring back the woodwork shop at the high school. Four years ago, with the financial assistance of the Shortridge Family Foundation, he put together a classroom of saws and drills and taught the students how to use them.
When cancer made it impossible to continue working with the class last May, one of his students said, “Bill was always nice to me, even if I was really bad. He was always helpful in whatever we were doing and he knows a lot about woodworking. It won’t be as much fun without him.”
The NHS woodworking class has become one of the only schools in the state that offers woodworking. Those who participated in the class knew that they were learning from one of the best, that he taught them from years of experience and from his heart.
There will be a memorial for Bill on February 4, when his son can attend after working in Antarctica.
Marie says she and Bill have been married for 23 years and it is difficult to imagine them going their separate ways. “A few days before he died I sat down by the pond and noticed two sticks floating on the surface of the water, staying close together. And then they moved apart, heading in different directions and I could feel that he was going off on his own journey. We have had a lot of ripples along the way but always somehow managed to stay afloat.”
A letter from Ken, Bill’s brother:
Well……..brother Bill is gone.
My “little brother” Bill and I never really connected….he was a non-conformist….I’m a conformist.
Bill was skinny……..I’m fat.
Bill was smart…….I muddle along.
So what is Bill’s legacy?
His 5 sons…August, Jay, Aiden, Richard & Bob…they’re all brilliant, creative, funny, loving, family oriented guys. They stick together and pursue their God given talents. They’ll all be OK.
Bill’s wife, Marie…she accepted Bill with all of his flaws and loved him till the end. She was a rock. Marie will be OK because the boys will always be there for her.
Bill was a lot like our Dad…he was a character. He was independent. He had great “hands”. He was proud of his kids. He enjoyed a nice conversation and a “good” drink. He appreciated the simple things in life and didn’t expect anything to be handed to him. He was a physical guy…..proud of his strength, endurance and ability to manage no matter what life threw in his path. He was a great friend who valued his relationships. He was a survivor.
So what did Bill want after he died…what do we all want after we die?
We want to know that our kids and our wife are gonna be OK.
We want our Mom to know how much we loved her and our Dad.
We want our brothers and sister to know what an important part they played in our lives.
We want our values to extend to our kids and to their kids.
We want to be remembered.
I will never forget Bill. He had the courage to live a life that was completely different than mine….and I admired it “from afar”. He valued his relationships…his family…his friends…above all.
God Speed, Bill. My greatest hope is that you heard God’s call in the end and we’ll meet soon in heaven and shoot a few games of pool.