Nov. 4, 1926 - July 11, 2020
My Old Tree made it to 93! And in a few months more he would have been 94.
He was laid to rest in the Gunnison Cemetery with military honors.
Recently Uncle Fred emailed me and was somewhat perplexed because of not finding dad’s obituary. So, here’s to Uncle Fred and dear daughter Heather for motivating me to complete dad’s obituary so that friends and family could reflect on the storied life he led. Included here are some brush strokes in the portrait of my dad.
His father, William P. the first, was the second one in his family to emigrate from Greece. My grandpa and great-uncle Gust left the old country in the early 1900s and came to America with hopes of adventure and having a better life here.
Dad was the first-born son of Mabel and William P. Glatiotis Sr.
Then came Tom, whom he really enjoyed calling his “twin,” for two months out of the year being the same age. After that, Beverly was born, followed by Leonard. The family soon moved to Camrose, Alberta Canada, from New Rockford, North Dakota.
Bill’s brothers and sister have already passed and he lamented that greatly, and at times felt that he too should be done with life. We reminded him that mom (Marion) and the entire family still wanted him around and it was his job to take care of mom, which he did willingly. We also reminded him he had brand new teeth and hearing aids and that he should wear them out. His reply was, “Lord, do I have to?” We knew he was frugal to a fault and would not want to waste those large investments in upgrades to his quality of life.
What is in a name?
The Old-World name for my grandpa in Greece was Vasili Giaginis. William (or Vasili) means strong, and refers to royalty and Peter (or Petros) means rock, and Glatiotis ... well Glatiotis just must have been easier to spell in English.
He endeavored to be a strong rock for the family. That name and meaning lives on in my cousin Vasile Glatiotis and my dad’s great granddaughter Ava Vasile Larson.
Another meaning associated with the name, Vasili, is not taking “no” for an answer, which indicated stubbornness and the possibility of conflict.
It definitely led to this pearl of wisdom from dad: “If you don’t give up things will eventually go your way!”
Bill is survived by his wife Marion, who just turned 96, his two sons Richard Paul, Ricky and William P III, known as Pete, and my wife Jeanne and my two daughters, Wendy Nicole and Heather Marie and her husband Jeff Heasley. Wendy’s family includes her husband Dennis and her children Andrew John and Ava Vasile.
Also surviving dad is his sister-in-law, Jean Glatiotis, in Massachusetts and brother-inlaw Don Pearson, in Calgary, Alberta Canada. He dearly loved all my cousins and their families.
He was a tireless and curious traveler. I called him the glue for the entire family, bonding us to our relatives in the new world and in the old. When mom and dad would come back to Gunnison from Hawaii in the summers, he would quickly set off on his road trip to visit relatives and friends from Massachusetts to Minnesota to Canada.
He loved crisscrossing the country and going on cruises for months on end. His voyages took them around South America to New Zealand, Australia and Korea. They went all over Europe tracing genealogy and took three trips to Greece. The family in the old world was in love with them. He always shared the love he had for his country and his heritage. Dad loved it when my cousin Teo came here from Greece. Teo was thrilled to be on horseback and cowboying in Gunnison (although I think he was disappointed there were no Indians to be seen).
When not traveling, dad emailed with everyone he could, which I called Spam-ALot.
Now back to some history.
Bill and Marion met in 1947 while stationed in Waikiki. They were married April 2, 1949 in Marion’s home town, Thief River Falls, Minn.
Bill served in the Army Air Corp/Air Force until May 10, 1950. He was extremely proud of his missions during the Berlin Airlift and the Russian blockade. These flights were harrowing and threats of confrontation were continual and crashes could and would occur. These brave souls would parachute drop rations to those under siege and candy for the children and then land in Berlin to rescue would-be refugees. Hence the moniker and a book entitled “The Candy Bombers.” Dad would be honored if you would check this book out and read it and note his place in recorded history on page 266, paragraph two.
Countless conversations, with civilians and fellow veterans, of all ages were sparked by his Air Corp cap. Strangers quickly became friends and admirers of Bill as he shared his love of country and appreciation of our freedom.
After his military service, he and Marion lived in Denver and they raised their sons. Bill worked as a foreman in the aircraft maintenance department at Lowry Air Force Base until he retired. He also worked as a salesman in sporting goods at department stores like Monkey Wards (really Montgomery Wards), Sears and May D&F.
I remember one story about his unorthodox methods to make the sale. Instead of just telling guys about the specs of a product he’d show them how fun it was to use. Example: pool tables. Even though he was threatened with termination at first, he insisted he could sell them with his M.O. Since he was so successful and much of his income was commission based, it makes me wonder how many close games he lost or how much money he won on the side. He also worked in lawn and gardens and we owned the first riding lawn mower in the neighborhood. Great fun that was, popping wheelies and mowing lawns at the same time. (Bob Villa and Tim Taylor must have been watching.)
Dad was teaching me by example. We cared for the older ones in our neighborhood, mowing yards and to be polite and helpful and raking leaves. This paid off; we got to watch “Rin Tin Tin,” “Lassie” and the “Lone Ranger” on their TV, the first one in the neighborhood.
This leads to another facet of his personality. He was performance oriented, not merit based like today. In other words, he was not impressed so much by your education and degrees (and claimed he made it as far as grade eight). You earned his respect by demonstrating what you could do with the knowledge you had.
Dad made sure I learned respect and the value of hard work and enjoying the fruit of your labor. We planted fruit trees and gardens. I became a master pearl diver and urban farmer, pulling and hoeing weeds. Dad sent me to the top of the cherry tree to pick them. All along, I thought I was having fun. I got to eat the sweetest and ripest ones and the pie and ice cream later. He taught me to lick the plate; who needs etiquette?
We coined the following descriptive phrase about Dad’s personality: He was a patient man, with a short fuse.
He could fish all day and could travel hundreds of miles in a day without complaint. But he was quick to speak his mind if there was something he disagreed with or considered an injustice. He was also quick to make friends and mischief from the age of 3 to 93.
He was never one to give hand-outs, but always willing to give anyone a hand-up. These qualities were inherited and learned working in Bill’s Cafe during the Depression.
Although Dad was no saint, he was the best Dad he could be.
We were not always close, but we eventually learned “we love each other no matter what.” We learned forgiveness and supported each other through our darkest times.
In 1988 Jeanne and I were in a car accident. He was there for us. Dad had quit smoking and drinking to excess and I saw him and Mom pull nails for three weeks out of old wood bleachers from the college, so that friends and family could build a beautiful accessible home for my recovering family.
In 1992, Dad and Mom sold their home in Denver and moved back to Waikiki, to build on their first love and roots in Hawaii. But family would always draw him back to Gunnison.
They came to live in Gunnison full time in 2016. He quickly became known to everyone in the community. It was common to see Bill cruising around town with his walker. He could be spotted from the library to the Post Office, the bank, McDonalds, City Market or anywhere in between. He made good use of our wonderful Senior Transportation Service when he was no longer able to drive. Although he missed the independence of driving, he was blessed to have this service, especially during our cold winter months. Although he wasn’t a big “tipper,” he would show his appreciation to the bus drivers by giving them a $2 bill or a hot fudge sundae occasionally when they picked him up at MacDonald’s after lunch. Many in the community received his $2 tips.
He always stayed busy; doing all that vacation stuff, traveling and camping and visiting relatives and fishing and doing what he most loved — holding yard sales at the Pole Barn. Many of you met him there, bargaining, bundling and telling tales (Hawaiians call it Talking Story). Each weekend that he advertised, he’d put out something new or different or improvise and sell something of mine he didn’t think I needed or wasn’t using. One time, a Looky-Lou complained he was running a business and should be paying sales taxes. You can bet that individual saw his short fuse!
Our family is extremely grateful that he spent his final years in this loving community, surrounded by people always willing to give him a respectful greeting, a salute, smile and continually looking out for him.
Many have approached me to offer their condolences and relate their own memories of Dad. Here are a few.
Harry, our neighbor and Viet Nam Vet, said, “Your Dad was a good man” and he enjoyed talking to him wherever they met.
Steven, our Veteran Service Officer, wrote “Your dad made my children smile effortlessly. We would see him at the store and Dustin would salute him. Your dad smiled his little grin and chuckled. Our family is grateful to know him as we did!’
Our neighbors, Al and Judy, said he was always welcoming them with big waves across the yard and always upbeat and positive and they admired his spunk for life and he would tell them how proud he was of his sons.
His great grandson Andrew said, “I remember so many moments where I saw the ‘big kid’ in Great grandpa just joking around and I felt like I was talking to another 20 something old guy.”
Ava, his great granddaughter, remembers eating breakfast looking at old pictures and listening to his flyboy stories and what he’s done and how much times have changed. She felt he was a kind soul and amazing man. She called him the Gusto Gpa!
Linda worked at the convenience store where he bought his Denver Post. She said he’d always brighten her day as he’d get her to come from behind the counter to dance a little dance with him and then off he’d go with a smile and a twinkle in his eye and hers as well.
Candy and Steph and so many others at City Market and MacDonald’s would tell me “how Sweet he was.”
When he was asked how he was doing, his reply was “100%!” with a thumb’s up.
Young ones were drawn to him. He was always buying Matchbox cars and handing out the shiny things at his yard sales.
Nathan commented, “I really liked your Dad. I don’t have a single memory of him without a smile on his face and a big smile it was!”
Trevor was a high schooler working at MacDonald’s who would take his breaks and sit and talk with them when Mom and Dad showed up for fish sandwiches and hot fudge sun-daes.
Cousin Achilles Giaginis, from Komotini Greece, wrote: “Uncle Bill was the one who made the most trips to Greece. We met and loved him. We felt his warm love. Uncle Bill was the connecting link with the rest of the family in the U.S. and Canada. Deeply sad.”
Elena from Komotini wrote: “He was such a great person! So kind! I had met him twice in my life. The second time your parents had come to meet me and my husband in Georgia. It was a great joy to us! I’ll always remember his smile and kindness!’
Melanie (his adopted daughter from Hawaii) wrote: “Your pops never complained of anything, except when he got his new `chompers: He enjoyed watching the rabbits in his yard. He was always telling me to pray for my husband. I knew he was a great prayer warrior. He was especially happy when Mike and I came to his condo and played poker!”
Bev 0’ wrote: “Bill and Marion always tried to be here for Jim’s birthday. They were lifelong pals. We enjoyed many visits here and winters in Hawaii with them!’
Rosemary and her mom Kay T. wrote: “We have been friends with your parents since 1991 in Hawaii when my mom met your dad at McDonald’s and your dad just said, ‘Well, aren’t you finally going to talk to us?’ Your dad and I hit it off right away. He loved their new home (in Gunnison) especially the deck out back. He was such a warm, loving man and I truly appreciated his dry humor and political views. He was a true gentleman and a fine man. “
Cousin Brenda was quick to write this poem after Dad died:
Since we were young,
I could hear mom (Beverly) say
Hurry, quick! Uncle Bill is on his way!
Through the years they would come and go, often with cousins Pete and Ricky in tow!
Family was dear and you knew in his heart,
He never would be too far apart.
His travels took him far and wide,
But his family was his greatest and dearest pride.
You knew from that special twinkle in his eye,
He always had an enduring love for you and L
He always couldn’t wait to see you again,
and to plug our toes into the sand.
He always made you feel special and ok,
The last he said to me — I can still hear him say
“Brenda and Keith, you really made my day!”
In conclusion, Aloha for now Dad, and we hope to see you real soon! The Creator guarantees it!
“If a man dies, can he live again? I will wait all the days of my compulsory service (in the grave) until my relief comes. You (Jehovah God) will call, and I will answer you. You will long for the work of your hands” Job 14: 14&15