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Tonight, I received word that my friend, Bill Clegg, had died.  Bill, who had been diagnosed with a bile duct tumor about eighteen months ago, lived longer than he had expected, and worked to make the most of all the time he had.  He loved his biological and extended family, music, travel, Star Island, his friends, the arts.

Bill was jokingly known, to some of his friends, as “The Mayor of Star Island” during the time when he was President of the Star Island Corporation.  He understood what a small, inbred ‘town’ Star was, and viewed his role as President as one akin to being the Mayor of a small village:  keep the peace, help move the economy in productive ways, perform good works to advance the position of the town, shake hands with visitors and newcomers, honor the history of the community.

He was a very, very good Mayor, and — in my opinion — helped to save Star Island from possible bankruptcy during his Presidency, through his dogged work, determination, and good management skills.  All of us who visit Star for a day, a week, or a lifetime should take a moment to say a small word of thanks to Bill for helping to ensure that the place has remained open and available for us to visit:  it was not a given that this would be so.

Bill kept his eye on the essential values of small communities, reminding others of those key values.  He treasured his friends and shared with us his wit and his considerable musical skill, which he happily shared with his daughter, Ellen, and his adopted son, Theo. No one present at the All Star One conference last year will easily forget Bill playing piano to accompany Theo’s smashing vocal offerings, or performing a remarkable duet with Ellen — he on piano, she on steel drum.  I think we all knew that it might be our last time watching and listening to Bill perform, and he — and we — were determined to make the most of it.

Bill had the ability to focus in on a problem and wrestle it to the ground, analyzing all sides of an issue until he understood it and had some sense that you, too, had a grasp of all the pro’s and con’s.  I used to joke that it was simply not possible to have less than a thirty minute conversation with him, because talking meant exploring every detail of a subject and considering every potential result.  But the thirty minutes were always well spent, and I never ended a conversation without feeling that I had learned something during the course of it.

Bill Clegg had an easy laugh, a sharp wit, a gentle hand, and a loving heart.  He faced the end of his life with bravery and spirit, modeling all that songwriter Bob Franke lifted up when he wrote in his song, “Thanksgiving Eve”:

“…What can you do with your days but work & hope
Let your dreams bind your work to your play
What can you do with each moment of your life
But love til you’ve loved it away
Love til you’ve loved it away.”

I was honored to call him friend, mentor, advisor, confidant.  And there is a hole in my heart that will never be filled, from his passing.

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