This past weekend William Athey, who I always knew simply as Bill (or sometimes Billy), died in an ultra-light accident in Florida. He was 53. Although I don’t recall seeing him after he graduated from Leto High School a year ahead of me (I sometimes heard about what he was doing through the grapevine), he was a formative and frequent presence in my life from the time I moved to Odessa and joined the Boy Scouts in 1971 until 1975. He was about a year older than me, and at various times we held leadership positions (always senior to me) in Troop 68, the Keystone Kampers. He was a solid guy, kind of like Clark Kent, seemingly indestructible and always on the side of righteousness. He took scouting very seriously, and from what I have heard lived up to the Scouting ideal, where I was a bit more freewheeling about it. You could rely on him, and he was a great camper and hiker. Sometimes I felt he was too serious, but he would give you a wry grin if he thought something was funny. In 1974 we shared the stage as newly minted Eagle Scouts, and the pictures show this towering rock standing next to me (I seem pretty silly looking). He probably was bemused that I was getting the award at the same time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had asked that it be that way rather than separate celebrations, because he was that kind of guy. I am sure our scoutmaster Larry Vaughn would have said Bill was one of the best boys he had ever mentored. In fact, it is probably safe to say that Bill was a far better scout and man than I could ever be. Had I remained in the Tampa area I definitely would have made sure that he was the Scoutmaster to my two boys. That’s how much I respected him. The one indelible image I have of him from our scouting days was a wild nighttime capture-the-flag battle in the Ocala National Forest, as I tried to match him step for step on opposing sides of a railroad cut through the woods, both of us running full speed, when suddenly he seemed to be running on thin air as if he were Wily Coyote. Unbeknownst to him, the railroad builders had made a side cut and his edge of the wall jogged right unexpectedly. I know that it was unchivalrous of me, but I doubled over in laughter, after he called up from the dark that he was bruised but ok. It was that funny. God bless him and his family, especially his younger sister Sybil, whom I knew from her days as a Girl Scout with my sisters. Bill leaves behind two sons, and there will be hundreds saddened by the news of his passing.
A few more pictures of Bill at the Eagle ceremony can be found at http://sylvannovelust.blogspot.com/2014/08/eagle.html