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In Mid-August, 1956 I first met Bill Wentz while in line to draw football equipment at OSU – it was the beginning of a very close friendship that lasted over 57 years. Some friendships just ARE, without any deep emotional discussions – they just ARE. And so it was with ours.
As I have reflected on many memories of Bill, it seems that many of the words begin with the letter “P” – starting with our phenomenal, personal friendship. I cannot imagine a closer one; it will be perpetual, and am so very grateful for it.
People – Bill loved people, meeting them, knowing them, and staying connected with them, in many groups too numerous to name. He had tremendous self-confidence -- I used to marvel at him as he would plough into any group or crowd, stick out his hand, look directly at them with his intense blue eyes and great smile, and say “Hi, I’m Bill Wentz. What’s your name?” Then he would remember them. Although he knew thousands of people, he had this huge ability for remembering and instantly recalling their names, as well as something about them and their families. What a gift!
Bill was a man possessed of high morals and sound principles – his personal integrity was beyond reproach in all he attempted and accomplished, whether in athletic competition or business. One of his business competitors came to him after learning that he had only a few months to live, and in essence was asking Bill to buy his company, indicating that he trusted Bill to be fair about the deal. Bill trusted others to operate by the same principles, and it was beyond him to believe that anyone might do otherwise.
Percent comes to mind also – Bill was a 100-plus percent person in all he did, and he expected everyone else to be the same, as many of those he coached or managed will attest. The only reason Bill’s effort for his long run was only 103 percent was because the guy didn’t kick it deeper!
Purposeful, passionate, planning, and pragmatic, about all things in life – as illustrated by the quote in the OSU Lantern when questioned further that evening about his record runback: “That game is over now and we have to worry about Purdue. Our next six ballgames will be real tough.”
Punctual was certainly one of his virtues (and compulsions). I know that when Louise and I would sometimes be late in picking him and Cindy up for an OSU home football game (we had the van and they had the parking pass, for all those many years) he would be pretty “antsy,” but he never said anything.
Proud of his family – who they are as people and of all of their accomplishments. Cindy, I recall him first telling me about you, and he said that you were really the one. From that day on he was always so very proud of you, your capability, just proud to “be your man.” You were the one perfect complement for him.
And, a most important word that does not begin with the letter “P,” which Cindy said to me the other day: “He was the kindest man I have ever known.”
He was always peering forward. About three years ago, in a golf cart under a shade tree waiting while for others teed off, I asked him what his outlook was. Without any emotion and in his usual perspicacious view, he said “about three years.” Then he looked at me and said, “the tee box is open.” End of discussion.
And so my friend Bill, in words you and I have shared, which will have extra significance to some here today . . . you have fought the good fight; you have finished your work.
You have done so much for so many, and all of our lives have been enriched by your presence here.