Bill East, Class of ’66

We’re getting to the point where we have more yesterdays than tomorrows. Still, it was a punch in the gut to see this posting about Bill East on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:

This is a very difficult status to enter. As you all know Bill is a very private person. I asked him to please allow me to let all of his friends know of his situation. Bill is in the later stages of stage 4 kidney cancer. The latest CT scan has shown it has spread into both lungs and has now gone into the bone causing a compression fracture of the T4 vertebra. It is an extremely aggressive type of cancer He was given the choice of trying additional treatment that most likely would not work and would make him sick or he could not get any more treatment and he could have better quality and a little less time. He chose to have quality time. We should be moving him in the next few days to a Hospice facility. This is a very difficult time for all of us and we ask for your continued thoughts and prayers. We will keep everyone updated as things change. Thank you, Bill, Judy and Heather

Monthly mini-reunions

A couple of years ago, some of the Class of  ’66 members started getting together once a month for luncheon mini-reunions. Some months only two or three folks would show up, other months might see nearly two dozen show up. Regulars were Marilyn Maevers, Gail Tibbles, Jacqie Jackson and Wife Lila, when she was in town.

Lila came up with the idea of inviting Bill to participate in this month’s luncheon by webcam. She put Son Adam in touch with Nephew Rocky Everett in Cape, who handled logistics at that end. Considering that we were all winging this, it worked out quite well. I tried to get some screen captures of the participants, but the program didn’t save them.

Terry Hopkins wanted to share some things

Terry Hopkins, also Class of ’66, who likes to come off as the class clown, has a serious side he tries to keep hidden. I first became aware of that when he wrote how much the Capaha Pool meant to him when he was growing up. After participating in the webcast, he wrote this for Bill and gave me permission to share it.

Terry’s message to Bill

I remember you in high school as the guy who worked at Wimpy’s and wore a white apron. You were the guy who knew the secret of Wimpy’s French fries. At times, you were the guy who chased all of us out of Wimpy’s parking lot for Mr. Lewis when we were too rowdy or we were just staying too long and not buying anything. So when I close my eyes and think of Bill East, I see you in the parking lot at Wimpy’s with a white apron, hands on your hips and looking at the parking lot filled with cars and teenagers of the sixties. I can close my eyes and see you now.

 We were Hall Monitors

You and I were Hall Monitors and in this exulted position, we were able to roam the halls of Central High School knowing nothing could stop us from our rounds doing what ever we did to maintain order in the cosmos and to prevent others from butting up in the lunch line. (… and really knowing nothing, at the time, about life either.) This is where I noted your patented “Mount Rushmore Pose”. There you are with your head looking up to horizons that only the lofty can see.

I can close my eyes and see you now, no wait here is the picture!

[Editor’s note: Bill is in the second row on the left in this Girardot photo of the Hall Monitors. I posted this photo to the Class of ’66 Facebook fan page in December. I don’t want to break the serious mood, but here’s Terry’s comment at that time: “We all were Hall Monitors…Sly is telling me that I was unzipped and Linda Maddox is trying to look! Bill East has his pose for Mt. Rushmore, Stovall is doing his natural thing…Linda Stone is vamping and doing a good job of it…Dee has glasses from someone else…”

[Bill, always a stickler for accuracy, filled in the blanks: “We hall monitors had to meet exacting criteria: Have a study hall during lunch time, have no outstanding wants or warrants, and, I think, be a senior.”]

 Honored as Outstanding Senior

You were in National Honor Society, spoke in the Optimist speech contests and you and several others were honored as up and coming High School Students. I remember you and Russ Doughty posing down town at the court house and there is “The Pose” again. At the time I just thought that you were nice guy and it was great to be honored in such a way by your school and faculty and you deserved it!

[Editor’s note: this vertical photo was cropped into a tight horizontal in the yearbook for this reason.]

Terry and Bill’s acting career

I also think of you as my brother. In Claudia Modder’s Pulitzer Prize winning Thanksgiving play in high school (sure wish I could remember the name of it…) you and I played brothers. That was the highlight of my short theater career. I really appreciated you carrying me during the play. I remember all the practices that we did, with Mrs. Wright, Vivian Walton, Mary Ellen Baker (as sis) and you my friend. I remember the effort it was for me to learn the lines and repeat them correctly, and you nailing every line on the first walk thru. I still was using the mimeographed script sheets in the later practices. I still can remember the smell of back stage and mimeograph ink…that was a nice smell and those were pretty good days.

I never had a brother, and the interaction of you and me during the play moved me. In the play, I was the straight-laced military brother having just returned from Viet Nam and you, my good friend, were the hippie brother. The details I forgot except a couple of things like the line when Mary Ellen Baker comes walking toward me and I said, “You were just a little squirt when I left” to roars of laughter…Mary Ellen was pretty short then and probably is now too… The play ended with both of us standing in front of some stained glass windows with the choir singing something with you in your “Mount Rushmore” pose and me in Civil Air Patrol Uniform. The message was we are all brothers and we are all Americans. Nice message then, even better message for today. I can close my eyes and see you now.

[Editor’s note: I didn’t record the Hopkins/East theatrical performance, but I did catch Bill dancing in the First National Bank Parking lot after the floor at the Teen Age Club started bouncing so much the city shut them down. Terry says that Bill was known for his Mount Rushmore pose, but I seemed to always catch him with his mouth open. Of course, in the photo at left, that was the typical male reaction when confronted with the Barringer Twins.]



Bill and Judy start their lives

You went to college, joined the Air force, got married ( to a lovely lady), had kids, moved around and got jobs doing things you loved to do and maybe some you didn’t. Ditto for me, and we lost track of each other while in pursuit of our own dreams.

 Years pass, and then there was the Internet. 1998 or so, I was sitting as my desk in Naperville, Illinois at the house and I get an email from a Bill East. Low and behold it is my old buddy Bill East from Cape Girardeau, Mo., class of 1966 and all around good guy. We email each other and catch up a little. Please remember that this way before MySpace, Facebook and a million other social networks. The Internet was new and BILL EAST found me out of the clear blue sky! As far as I knew we were the only guys on the internet and that was cool….

 We start connecting with classmates

As the years pass, once again BILL EAST invites me to new thing called FACEBOOK and I join. A month or so later Larry LaBruyere joins and now there are three people on the internet. We catch up some more. I see a present day shot of Bill and think…geez he looks the same! Not Ditto for me… and we catch up a little more. Then Gail Tibbles discovers us and the WHOLE world is on the Internet and we all can see and talk to each other again! So now I know that Bill has a family, kids and grandkids and whole life lived that I knew very little about, and you know it looks like a pretty good life too! So I get another picture of you as an older and wiser man with kids and responsibilities and think, hey we both made it as adults. I can close my eyes and see you now.

 Got together at the 2010 reunion

I met you again at our reunion this last year and had a great time. We talked for only a couple of minutes at a time about ten times over the weekend and I enjoyed hearing about your life now and of course talking about our classmates. It seems we all were trying to talk to everyone all the time in catch up with everyone all at the same time; at least it seems that way for me.

We connect with Jacqie

You and I were talking and then up comes the best dressed lady in the house and, of course, we both have to talk and take a picture.

[Editor’s note: That’s Jacqie, formerly Bill Jackson, also Class of ’66.]

You and I bumped into each other at lunch, on the tour of Central high School at breakfast, in the auditorium, in the halls and in the weight room. Saturday night you and I bump into each other again with Mike Friese and John Hoffman plus their spouses, and catch up a little more with life and times. During the course of this weekend we really did see each other a lot and I got to catch up on the Bill East of the 21st century. I even got to know about Buddy a little, more on Facebook about Buddy, but this started it.

Today we had lunch together via the Internet… you in Ohio, the lunch bunch in Cape and me in Florida. I did not say a lot, my camera and microphone were on the other computer which died TODAY. You looked the same, well, except for the headphones and O2 tube. I thought you looked quite dashing. High attitude pilot of the 1930’s was the look you had going for you, and it was working dude! I saw flashes of Buddy running around in the background and his mother too, which was nice. I listened to your interaction with Buddy and got to see the loving grandfather part of my friend, Bill.

Life is full of glimpses

I guess life is full of glimpses. We only get to see and get short takes from our friend’s real lives, just little pieces of their real lives. Thru the last 60 years or so I have been privileged to see and hear pieces and only pieces of a normal life of good guy, you, my friend.

So when I close my eyes and think of you I see the young Bill East in white apron, my brother Bill East as a hippie with stained glass behind us both, The younger Bill East getting married, the mature Bill East with dashing 1930’s high attitude flyer looks stopping to talk to his grandson off camera. All of these small pieces make a whole picture for me. That is what I see when I close my eyes, and think of you.

[Editor’s note: Thanks to Terry for sharing his thoughts. Bill has been a frequent contributor to this blog and a good guy for an underclassman. I’ve grown to appreciate his dry wit and attention to detail. The journalist in him seems to think that truth and accuracy should be as important as telling a good story. I consider those things merely incidentals, if not impediments.]







28 Replies to “Bill East, Class of ’66”

  1. What a beautiful tribute to Dad. I loved reading it. Terry’s words brought tears to my eyes and taught me more about my dad. His friends and classmates have been so special to him. He loved reading the booklets from the reunions in the days before the net. Now he loves being able to see where you all have been and what’s going on in your lives now. I feel I’ve already met many of you just because of his stories. He sometimes doesn’t realize just how much he means to people. He saw a bit of that from the friends at the mini-reunion. I saw much more in the reactions to the news when he finally let us share. They say the real measure of a man is in his friends, or something like that. I always knew he’s amazing but you all prove what I’ve always known.

    1. Heather, I’m sure that you have discovered a more complete vision of your Dad, when his friends from the past share their recollections. Like “Back to the Future”, you can know him more fully. There were many good times at Central High, but I am certain that your Dad is the only one there who could out “serious” me. We’ll be praying for all of you…Kathy

    1. Thanks for sharing that. We talked it over with Bill’s family, who got Bill’s OK to do the piece. We wanted folks to have a chance to share their thoughts and memories with him.

      He has a laptop in his room and has a Facebook page. His daughter is going to get me a snail mail address for his nursing home for those who would rather send a physical note.

  2. For those of you that are wondering how you can send a message to Dad, I have some ways for you to contact him. His address is
    Bill East
    c/o Pleasant Lake Villa
    7260 Ridge Rd.
    Room 259 Sandalwood
    Parma OH, 44129.

    Also, Dad has a laptop with internet and still pops on to Facebook.

  3. I’m one of Steinie’s Florida friends – a longtime coworker at his old career, The Palm Beach Post. I lurk here, reading stories about his classmates (and meeting some – hello, Jacquie!). Though I’m a class of ’71 grad in Ft. Lauderdale, I can relate to many of the antics of these folks in Cape. I never knew Bill, but thanks to Terry, now feel that I did. Thanks for these shards of light into what is apparently a wonderful life. I salute your bravery, Bill, in opting for a quality winter season of life. Hope someone is recording as much of it as possible. Good thoughts to you and yours.

    1. Jan, you have a closer connection to Bill than you might know. He worked in the Lake Park Bureau for The Times long before you and I got to The Post. He had the good sense to flee Florida as quickly as possible, though.

  4. Thank you Ken for putting this together and Lila also for the Video lunch last week. Bill and I shared so many common interests and classes during our Central years. The time at Wimpy’s, the oratorical contests, and the time we all spent together and the outright fun are things that I remember. Our journies through this life are our own, but our hearts are with you Bill.

  5. Wow! Never knew The Times had a bureau there. A bureau?! Heavens to murgatroid! They’re right up the street from The Post (and my house straddles it with Riv Beach on the marina.) Maybe that’s when Chuck Otterson started, too – his dad was mayor here back when it was a burg. Otterson now lives in Century Village.

  6. Well done tribute to an old Rodney Vista friend – just over Adeline hill. Bill, continuing to send our prayers and positive vibes to you and to your loving family and your many friends as well. Peace…

  7. Bill, you and your family will be in our prayers. I enjoyed reading this article. Often wonder about the fellow classmates. You never know about the friends you make along the way. Ken does a good job of reminding us all.

  8. We should all be so fortunate to live our lives and still be fondly remembered by so many high school classmates. I heard somewhere once that if you leave high school, you are truly blessed if you have just two friends at the end of that experience. Bill has many fold that number that are thinking of him daily.

  9. Just terrific, all of you who put this together. I remember having a bunch of classes with Bill and that he had all these intelligent comments among the nonsense that most of us were sharing. When I didn’t understand something in class, Bill was the one who could explain it to me. Bill, I have continued to learn from your postings and comments via Facebook. I very much enjoyed seeing you again at most recent class reunion! My love to the entire family.

  10. Bill, you were always a very good friend to me in high school. And I treasure our “private times”, when we talked outside at the reunion last summer. Thanks! You are in my prayers. Tricia

  11. I have been in Chicago at a meeting and did not see this until tonight when I got on line. Ken you did a really fine job on this one. To Bill I bet you didn’t think I was paying that much attention did you? Hope all you family is getting to see you lots. Keep that 30’s high attitude flyer look going, it works for you…

  12. Thank you so much Ken and Terry. This is a beautiful gift of connection and caring for Bill and his family. And it enriches all of us who read it. We all fly apart to our separate lives after childhood, but those memories and images affect us for the rest of our lives in so many subtle, even hidden, ways. Ken and Terry have reminded us to connect with each other and bring those old memories to the light of day. It ‘does a body good’ on so many levels. Godspeed, Bill.

  13. Many thanks to Ken & Terry. This is a beautiful gift to Bill and his family of caring and acknowledgement. And we who read this receive the reminder of connections and how they matter. I think we never forget the childhood images and glimpses that Terry wrote so eloquently of in his story. These experiences from our childhood have a subtle, even hidden, yet profound effect on us through-out our lives. Thanks for bringing this to the light!

  14. Ok, computer glitch. I wrote the first comment last night before dropping off to sleep. Now it’s 11:30 am next day and I opened my iPad, did not see my comment, assumed I had not hit ‘post’ last night; so I tried to recreate the same message just now. When I hit post, both comments appeared. so you get double thank you from me.

  15. I remember Bill East as a go getter!! Sorry to hear of the misfotune but we are all praying for him and wish him the best. We all know God is in control of all so Bill live life to the fullest and thank God forwhat He has given to you and entrusted you with…a beautiful wife, wonderful kids, and friends that have NEVER forgotten you. Peace my friend and God will Bless you even more.

    Bill Pitts

  16. Here’s a Facebook update from the family on May 23:

    “Bill’s condition has deteriorated. He is in a beautiful hospice with wonderful people. They are doing a great job in controlling his pain and anxiety, however it is very possible he will be with his heavenly family sooner than we thought.”

  17. Heather, Bill’s daughter, posted this update May 24, 2012:

    “Dad passed away early this morning. He went peacefully. He is with his brothers, his parents, and so many who loved him so and have gone before him. He is with the Lord and finally free of pain. I will love him and miss him and will see him again.”

    There’s something to be said for knowing how many days you have left so you can have the opportunity to say what’s important to those who mean something to you.

    Bill East was a writer. A good writer knows when to say The End, no matter how much the readers want another chapter.

    I’ll miss him, but I won’t forget him.

  18. I extend my empathy and sympathy to Heather, the rest of the East family and to my fellow 1966 classmates on the passing of Bill. It was a joy to read his life story told through Terry’s memories.

    Terry and Ken, you did a fantastic job of not only honoring Bill … but also in inspiring fellow classmates individually and collectively. Thank you.

    Personally speaking, I have four extremely important writing deadlines that should be done by next Wednesday. I have been struggling with them.

    Heather recently wrote about the blessing of a writer knowing how much time is left before the final deadline to prepare for really saying The End and then with that knowledge choosing the most important words to say.

    Because of Heather’s words, I now see with new clarity the need to simplify my focus … following Bill’s example and writing just what is most important.

    Heather, I thank you for taking the time to share these special memories of your Dad with us. As a writer, I will treasure the example Bill left for me to follow because of what you shared.

    I pray God’s blessing on the East Family and all my class mates and your families.


  19. I have not kept up with many of the Class of 65-66 as after graduation I joined the USAF and only went back a couple of times to Cape. I have since hooked up via FB with Ken Steinoff and he has brought many memories back! There are way too many of our classmates who are no longer with us! I wish I had kept up with more of our classmates. Feel free to contact me at

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