His Name Was Bill, a Quiet Man With an Impressive Past

My work as a chair massage practitioner often took me to retirement communities.  One place I had a weekly arrangement with was a residence called Orchard Gardens.  When you entered, there was a kind of library lounge to the right, with comfy upholstered chairs arranged in clusters of three or four.

Bill would always be sitting there alone in one of those clusters, a book open on his lap but his eyes gazing elsewhere, often through the windows that looked out on the fruit trees that the community had been named for.

One day I finished a bit early, so instead of rushing to my car and to the next set of appointments, I went over to Bill and introduced myself.  He greeted me with a firm handshake, and motioned for me to sit down.  We began to chat, but I couldn’t stay long because of my schedule.  I promised I would stop and see him on my next visit.

The next week I arranged my schedule so that I would have more free time after the Orchard Gardens appointments. I stopped by to see Bill, who this time had a newspaper in his hand.  He pointed to the headline, a news item about an overseas conflict.

“I spent many years flying back and forth to that country,” he said.  There was turmoil then, and still today despite our efforts, more turmoil.  He shook his head and sighed.

I was curious about what he meant.  “What do you mean by ‘your’ efforts, Bill?  Why were you going there so often?”

He began to explain that he had been a management accountant, with expertise in infrastructure.  After World War II he had been recruited to be part of the committee that was to oversee the rebuilding of Europe.  He was responsible for enormous sums of money, and his efforts were instrumental to helping Europe regain its place in the world economy.

Over the next few weekly visits with Bill, I learned more about his incredible role in international affairs, and about the world leaders he had worked with.

On one visit I met his daughter, Sandra. I commented to her how much I enjoyed talking to her father about his amazing life and career.

She looked puzzled.  “Oh?  Dad never talks much about it, just in general terms, something about the war.  I wish we knew more.”

I felt sad that Bill’s story could get lost.  “Ask him more questions about it, Sandra.  You’ll get to know your father in a whole new light.”

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