Stories About Bill

the ways he inspired us

If you have a story you would like to contribute, we invite you to submit it via email.

From Lisette Austin

Facebook post – November 29, 2020

With profound sadness and heartbreak I must announce that my beloved Papa left this world peacefully this morning at 9:47 am.

Sadly, I was not able to visit him in the hospital or be there the exact moment he passed due to pandemic restrictions, but am grateful to have spent time at his bedside soon after he passed, saying goodbye.

Those of you who know me well know that my father and I were very close. He was a very special man, loved deeply by so many. He broke many barriers and helped countless individuals and families over the years. He was truly my hero.

I will forever be grateful for the many adventures we went on together, especially in recent years, and for all the time spent talking and laughing during what felt like borrowed time (he was diagnosed with heart failure in 2012).

If you want to know more about him and his amazing life, this article written by Horizon House (where he lived the last five years) speaks volumes. I’m also sharing a digital story I made in 2010 about my father’s life and how we worked through a difficult shared experience at President Obama’s inauguration in 2008.

God speed Papa, I still can’t believe you are gone. I’ll miss you, your unconditional love, your guidance, and your endearing, infectious laugh the rest of my life.

From Mark Smith

Letter to Bill

I sat for a while this afternoon

and stared out at the rain

pummeling my deck 

and streaming down

the murky window pane.

The amber leaves of the maple tree

above the rooftop next door

are finally letting go.

Twisting and turning

in the blustery wind,

one by one they detach

and silently swirl away.

I miss the glacially slow way

you poured pinot noir

and savored each gourmet bite

as we shared our most intimate thoughts 

one man Black, the other white.

We managed our hospital clinic together

and processed our private lives

through separation, divorce,

our teenagers’ strife

and when you finally came out.

But gradually, your failing heart

inched life’s rheostat down

until your quality of life was on the edge

and you knew it was time to let go.

I valued those nights out with you

sharing dreams and bold ideas

but mostly I miss 

your deep, belly laugh

raucous and full of life.

Mark Smith, MD

February 10, 2021

From Jane Ann Eberle

Bill supported my career as a school psychologist at Parent Child Clinic in the Central district of Seattle and I miss him dearly for his encouragement!

From Susanna F. Steiff Pinyuh

I miss Bill very much.

I met him early on when I came to Horizon House but can’t remember the year. When I saw his HH name tag, “Dr. Bill”, went up to him immediately: hello, my name is Susi, I like doctors, one grandfather, one father and two uncles were doctors! Bill responded with so much kindness and friendly interest! I felt he was someone I could talk to any time and I did. With other people it can be difficult to introduce oneself although I am getting used to it after lots of practice here. Very often Bill and I would chat in or outside of the library and in the Fireside Lounge. Later I was glad I met Lisette briefly a couple times while she was visiting Bill out on the Univ. Street benches.

Will never forget Bill!

Susi Pinyuh

From Marney Reed

I first met Bill at the GLU group of Unity Seattle. It was easy to be drawn to Bill and I have fond memories of times we shared, both within the group’s church activities and socially. He was such a joy to be with!

Thank you Lisette for writing such a lovely tribute to our Bill!

From Claudia Finkelstein

I knew Bill through a series of short but intense excursions into British Columbia wine country. He was hilarious, kind and so humble that I never knew what a luminary was in our midst on these trips. You can see the warmth and joy in the lovely photos that you have shared.

Please accept my sincere condolences.