|Each morning, you could find Bill kneeling and digging in the rose beds. Sometimes he’d add manure. Once, chicken manure that fouled the air for days. I think that may have been one of Bill’s jokes.
His sense of humor pervaded much of his talk, his actions, but not his roses. These were serious and very, very precious to him, especially the Tropicana’s, with their intense vermillion color.
If anyone should care to pluck one of his roses, Bill raged. So, if he himself gifted you with one, what an honor! He did it with a great flourish, often kissing your hand in the bargain. It never seemed too exaggerated, as Bill had a natural grace which set him apart, even as he stooped down in the garden, his shirt and pants never quite meeting on his back.
The quality of this man, his tenderness toward Jennie and Lucia, his deep joy in the babies (Lucia’s children, Rose and Ian), his constant care and concern for the Art Center and the folks involved in it---these characteristics kept him going even when in great physical pain.
In those days when the grandchildren were very young, I could look down from my studio window and see them playing among the roses, little Ian clinging to “Babbo” and Rose making drawings with him. Then, the garden flourished. I watched it as the season advanced, the rich ground between the stalks covered with dark blue lobelia, little white fever-few daisies and a close green mat of baby’s tears.
Some days, I’d look down and make rose sketches. Sometimes, a painting evolved long after the last persistent bloom dropped its lovely petals on the frosty ground, now bare of green and blue.
And now, Bill is gone. Lucia is reviving the rose garden for him.
Rose is growing into a lovely young lady, Ian a thoughtful boy, and dear Jennie left to remember her unique life companion.
All the town crowded into the Art Center Bill had founded, to weep and laugh and celebrate this man whose life touched us all with joy and, as he said, with “ORT AND CULTURE!” grinning as he spoke.
Hilda Pertha. June 1998