Muehlig Funeral Chapel

403 South Fourth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI


William "Bill" James Conlin II

June 5, 1931October 27, 2019

William J. Conlin “Bill” June 5, 1931-Oct. 27, 2019

William (Bill) James Conlin II was born on June 5, 1931 into a fourth-generation Ann Arbor family at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. He passed away peacefully at the age of 88 on Oct. 27, 2019, at the University of Michigan Hospital. The location of both his birth and death proved to be fitting bookends, as he served as Chairman of the Board for many years at St. Joe’s Hospital, and earned both his undergraduate degree, ’53, and law degree, ’55, from U-M.

The middle son of Florence Hallen and Edward Francis Conlin, Bill was raised on Kingsley Street and attended St. Thomas School as a young boy with his brothers, Edward and Tom, before heading off to Wisconsin to attend Campion Jesuit High School. While a student at the University of Michigan, he developed his lifelong love of history, and equally importantly, his penchant for socializing. He joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, where he remained an active alum, and honed his hosting skills throwing parties at his parents’ home, whenever they were away. He frequently served a signature rum drink innocently named “Milk Punch.”

In 1955, he met Ellen Ann (Nan) Adams, then a U-M graduate student in English literature, who was renting an apartment in a student rental property Bill’s family owned. Nan, who would soon earn a prestigious Hopwood Award for fiction writing, lowered her rent payment substantially when she married Bill in 1956. During the next 10 years, they added four children to their family—Elizabeth, Gregory, Jennifer, and Jay—and embarked on a series of house moves all over town that would lead to Nan ultimately describing them as “Ann Arbor Gypsies.” (Not surprisingly, she pivoted her career from writing professionally to interior decorating.)

Working for the family firm his father started—Conlin, Conlin & Parker, later Conlin, Conlin, McKenney & Philbrick—Bill practiced all areas of law, but found his personal and professional passion in real estate, moving from student housing to developing shopping centers and multiuse residential projects. He was an original member of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and his vision and enthusiasm created some of the city’s most noteworthy buildings and shopping centers.

In the 1960s, Nan and Bill, alongside six other couples, founded Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Their children, and four of their grandchildren, are Greenhill’s alumni. Daughter Jennifer is currently chair of the board of trustees. During that same time, Bill was one of the original investors in a French restaurant called La Seine, which did not experience the same longevity as Greenhills (it opened and closed within a year on Main Street), but led to a lifetime of hilarious disaster stories, including the book “How to Grill a Gourmet.” He was also a founding member of the Ann Arbor Racquet Club.

In 1971, Nan and Bill hosted the opening-night party for the Power Center (they were among the original 400 contributors) building on their lifelong love and support for the performing arts in the community and at U-M. Two weeks before his death, he attended a School of Music, Theatre & Dance production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” describing it as “Wonderful,” his favorite word for nearly everything he experienced.

Bill enjoyed travel to far-flung places, including Egypt, New Zealand, Patagonia, Southeast Asia, South Africa, and anywhere in Europe. For 25 years, the family enjoyed summers at their lake cottage in Harbor Springs, Michigan, followed by a decade in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where they were supporters of the Shaw Festival.

Bill liked to work and play hard. He hated doing nothing and saying nothing, and would fill all silent moments with a little “doup de do” tune of his own making. He savored long dinner parties with good food and wine, lively conversation, and constant laughter. He is survived by his brothers, L.Thomas and Edward F. Conlin, his wife, Nan and children: Elizabeth, Gregory, Jennifer (Daniel Rivkin) and Jay (William James III and Sue) Conlin, son-in-law Daniel Rivkin, and six grandchildren: William James (Jim) Conlin IV, Bennett and Megan Conlin, and Harriet, Florence, and Charles Rivkin. His enormous extended family and friends will miss his presence immensely as he made all events memorable with his unfiltered speeches, uproarious chuckle, and not always accurate storytelling. We know he is looking down on us, and on Ann Arbor, his favorite place in all of the world.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at St. Mary’s Student Chapel located at 331 Thompson St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Family visitation will start at 9 a.m. A reception will follow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Greenhills School, located at 850 Greenhills Drive, Ann Arbor, MI. 48105. Contributions can be made in Bill’s honor to the 2019-20 Annual Fund for Greenhills School at the address listed above or at www.greenhillsschool.org/give/.


23 November

Gathering of Family and Friends

9:00 am - 10:00 am

St Mary Student Parish

331 Thompson St
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

23 November

Memorial Mass

10:00 am

St Mary Student Parish

331 Thompson St
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

23 November


11:00 am - 2:00 pm

Greenhills School

850 Greenhills Drive
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105


William "Bill" James Conlin II

have a memory or condolence to add?


November 11, 2019

Bill and I met under unusual circumstances around 2009. We became friends and partners soon thereafter.

I always admired his knowledge, positive energy, and unrelenting optimism.

When he complaint of getting old, my favorite response to him was "Till hundred and twenty". He seemed to always enjoy that.

My deepest condolences to his siblings, wife, children, in-laws and grandchildren, and friends.

He will be missed.

Raymond Eshaghoff