Submitted by Gordon Nelson
Bill Graham passed away on January 2, 2020. Hard to believe! He was full of energy and commitment, an absolutely superb athlete, very accomplished business man, and dedicated citizen. I grew up only a few blocks from Bill in Hamilton but did not actually meet him until many years later through joint activities in the Bruce Peninsula. Yet I certainly knew of his exploits on the football field. I watched him play with the Junior Hamilton Wild Cats when he was a young teenager. When I came back to Kitchener-Waterloo after years elsewhere he was well known as a running back in an outstanding backfield with Bobby Kuntz and Cookie Gilchrist. Bill made the Tiger Cats as a youth of 17, playing with big men like Vince Mazza and Vince Scott. His quickness and sense of the field were his forte. Bill played football for the love of the game. He once told me that in the early 50s he had negotiated a $1,200.00 annual contract from the tough Tiger Cat manager, Carl Voyles, who told him he was hard to bargain with! Bill said what Voyles didn’t know was that he would actually have played for nothing!
Bill was an excellent hockey player, invited by Canada’s senior league champions, the Belleville McFarlands, to join them in a playing tour of Europe. He also stood out in track and field, particularly as a runner. After football and hockey he became a first rate squash player as well as an internationally competitive Carriage Driver. Every year he spent a week hunting deer and another going east to fish for salmon on the Mirimachi.
A man of courage, skill, determination, and tenacity, he carried these attributes into business, excelling in the investment industry and linking his experience with a national scholarship program intended to assist financially challenged students enter Canada’s growing universities in the 1970s.
I met Bill in Tobermory when we served on the Bruce National Park and Fathom Five Marine Park Advisory Committee. We also worked together with another Hamilton boy, Daryl Cowell, in establishing the Sources of Knowledge Forum (SOK), an organization intended to link the research, activities, and benefits of the Bruce and Fathom Five Parks to the research and learning interests of the people of the Bruce and outlying areas. This Forum has been very successful and is holding its 12th annual conference in spring 2020. Bill made a major contribution by attracting hundreds of people through his intense marketing skills. He also was heavily involved in creation of a SOK bursary for local young people who wanted to attend university. Bill liked SOK because it was social and contributed to the conservation of the wild character of the Bruce Peninsula, a place where he spent as much time as he could.
I went with Bill on a very memorable raft trip down the great Nahanni River — the Headless Valley — in 2013. It was a run he had done before some years earlier with his wife Pat. While we were on the River he spoke more than once about how he would like to show this magnificent place to his five daughters and his grandchildren: it demonstrated the grandeur of the Canadian North. While running the swift waters and rapids, we saw some intriguing wildlife: an eagle, a wolf, caribou, ducks, and rich bird life. At the start of the trip we had made a bet about whether or not we would see a bear. He bet yes and I bet no. Towards the end of the run, as we were swinging around a curve in the River, he tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the River bank. There stood a big, black bear staring into the raft. I told him that I thought he had had the bear brought in — which, for Bill, was not out of the question. He never actually denied it, and he still owes me five bucks. Go with the wind, Bill Graham, with a life well lived.