Growing up in Williamstown and working at the House of Walsh store made Bill Reopell’s adjustment to Amherst easier than that of many. From the beginning he was savvy and relaxed, traits which amplified both his happy-go-lucky personality and his keen mind.
His quick-wit made him a natural to initiate bull sessions of all sorts. But there was substance behind the wit – a skeptical questioning attitude. From the beginning he wrote easily and well. His sister, Larrie Ann Noyes, wishes that she “had the same gift of writing that my brother had. Be it a short note or a lengthy letter, he had a way with words.”
Writing proved a central skill in his career. After completing the Army’s six-month program in the Bennington, Vt., National Guard (with classmate Dick Norcott), Bill began his career on the staff of the San Juan Star, the city’s English-language newspaper. He would hang out with Norcott in San Juan bars after filing his stories at 10 pm. Later he worked for Readers Digest in Pleasantville, N.Y., and finally was head of public affairs at what was Jersey City State College.
After retirement Bill and his wife, Ola, moved to Royalston, Mass., about 25 miles northeast of Amherst, where they had previously summered. Lovers of culture, Bill and Ola frequented New
There always was substance
York for the opera, Boston for the museums and BSO, and Paris for his Francophile interests. Bill was close enough to the College to be able, for many years, to drive to Amherst, swim laps in the pool and head back home after a good workout.
He became active in town politics. He had a direct and forthright style and enjoyed the
combativeness of politics. Elected to the Board of Selectmen, he became head selectman and the swing vote in a controversial local issue. John Bischof, who visited Bill on several occasions in Royalston, remembers that Bill “brought the same intensity, questioning, humor, skepticism and ‘Reopell-chuckle’ to the debate, tempered by 50 intervening years of perception, understanding and experience.”
In the midst of these town debates, Bill’s wife died in October 2001. Bisch remembers that the emotional impact was immediate. “The spark was gone, the cheerfulness more distant and ambivalent. He quickly tired of the political challenge and resigned his position as selectman.”
His sister Larrie remembers that “Bill lost his will to go on. He became very close to me and my family, as he had no children of his own. After 2001 I saw a lot of him, as did my children. He was especially close to my youngest child, Matthew, and my granddaughter, Ashley. Ashley shared the same love of the theatre and the opera as did Bill and Ola.
“Bill’s death in 2003 was very sudden, but very peaceful. He would not have wanted the end to be any different. We do miss his favorite ‘Whatever,’ which he said often. We all miss him; dying at 67 was much too young. Bill also left a second sister, Barbara, and a brother, Nelson.”
William Raymond Reopell died of a heart attack at a restaurant in Swanzey, N.H., Aug. 10, 2003.
|Bill in Paris in the late 1990s, |
on one of his annual trips there with Ola