Born: April 27, 1928
Died: January 26, 2014
Bill’s presence departed our physical realm last Sunday after a brief illness. His wife, Patricia, preceded him in passing by just over one year.
He was born of simple beginnings on his parent’s farm in New Hope, Virginia to Harper P. Houff and Anna Elizabeth Willberger. He had one sister Anna Lee, who died some years ago.
Raised as a Methodist under the strict hand of his father, he was also born into increasingly austere times, in the rural beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. We’re not sure how far his school was from his home, but he was fond of saying, “I used to walk five miles to school”, when we would complain about our own hardships.
After high school, it was a chance meeting with an old girlfriend, and her suggestion that he “do something with his life”, that caused him to enter a chemistry scholarship contest, which he won, allowing him to start his education and earn a BS at the College of William and Mary. He earned his way by working as a waiter in the Travis House, in Colonial Williamsburg. He went on from that, securing an MS, and then a PhD in Chemistry at Michigan State University. Later he changed career paths to enter the Unitarian Ministry, by studying at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkley CA.
He was married five times, finally settling on his beloved wife Patty, their marriage lasting over 30 years until her death in 2012. Through those marriages he was blessed with three sons: Konrad, Gregory, and Robert, as well as numerous step sons and daughters that no doubt remember him for his gentle but firm influence.
Unitarians are all about social justice, and Bill was the embodiment of that focus. His children will well remember joining him in the big marches in San Francisco protesting the Vietnam war. They will also remember many hours spent outside the Napalm plant in Redwood City, CA. protesting the use of that abomination on the people of Viet Nam.
He was one of the founders of “HEAL”, the Handford Education Action League, that helped raise public awareness about the dangers of nuclear waste and particularly the inept and irresponsible bumbling of our Department of Energy in handling that waste right here in Washington State.
He touched many people with his genuine concern and compassion. He also suggested that we look inward to the meaning within our spirit by writing a book that explores those subjects: Infinity in Your Hand.
He will be sorely missed, but fondly remembered.
Services are February 12th at 2:00 pm at the Unitarian Church of Spokane.
No flowers are requested. If you feel you need to make a donation, do so in his name to the Inland Northwest Land Trust.