Friday, March 29, 2019
Bill Thompson III (1962 - 2019)
As many of you know by now, the birding community lost one of its great leaders last Monday night, when Bill lost a tough battle with pancreatic cancer, a battle no one wins. His diagnosis last December came like a punch in the gut to everyone who knew him, but Bill being Bill bravely faced up to it and continued with his typical productivity for as long as he possibly could.
His wife of 25 years, artist and author Julie Zickefoose, wrote an elegantly descriptive synopsis of Bill's life in the Marietta Times, and you should read it RIGHT HERE.
I could add nothing beyond Julie's thoughtful conspectus, other than to relay some of my personal experiences with Bill. In 1978, a small fact-packed and delightful magazine hit the presses - Bird Watcher's Digest. As a lad of 16 and thoroughly hooked on birds, I got my mitts on the inaugural copy and ate it up. I did not yet know the Thompson clan, who started and published BWD, but did in a way through their magazine for many years before making any personal connections.
In 1997, I finally met Bill at a Midwest Birding Symposium at Lakeside, Ohio. By then, we knew each other by reputation, and upon actually meeting, hit it off. We're only a few weeks apart in age, shared the same passion for birds and spreading the word of birds, and a similar corny sense of humor and fondness for bad jokes. Over the years, we spent a lot of time together, in leadership roles in the Ohio Ornithological Society (both of us served as president), on trips far and wide, and just hanging out. Eventually, Bill offered me opportunities to write for Bird Watcher's Digest, the magazine I had long eagerly devoured. And I still wield a BWD pen to this day - in fact, the current issue's cover story is about Wilson's snipe, and it's mine, thanks to Bill. Only a few weeks ago, he sent me a nice note about being part of the Bird Watcher's Digest family, and in spite of his struggles was still working hard with the publication he loved.
Like many of you, I have so many good memories of Bill and time spent in his company that I could write a book. Instead, I dusted off some of the numerous photos that I managed to take of our adventures over the years, and a pictorial remembrance follows. I'll miss Bill dearly, as will so many others. Again, read Julie's wonderfully written obituary for an excellent recap of Bill's life and accomplishments, HERE. Also, back on February 6, Bill and I recorded one of his This Birding Life podcasts. The wide-ranging discussion was posted on March 6, and can be heard RIGHT HERE.
My condolences to Elsa, Julie, Liam, Phoebe, Wendy, Andy, Laura, and everyone else in Bill's extended family, and I know my sympathies are shared by thousands of people around the globe who personally knew Bill.
The following photos are all just quick snaps taken with phones or point & shoots, unedited, and in no particular order. They all bring back fond memories.
Your spirit lives large, Bill, and thanks for the profound impact you had on so many lives, in so many ways.
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