William Bill O Winter

October 1, 1918August 30, 2012

A Gentleman and a Scholar.

Bill Winter passed away at home after a long and wonderful life just one month shy of his 94th birthday. He grew up in Missouri and Oklahoma, moving frequently as his father pursued new farming and business opportunities. His was a happy childhood, protected from the ravages of the depression by the food grown at home and a dairy that provided the family a small income though Bill often brought up how much he hated getting up at 3:30 every morning to milk cows. He was loved and nurtured in his childhood by not only his parents, but by his “Granny” whom he adored. One of his favorite childhood memories was of living in Walters, Oklahoma just after oil was discovered on the neighboring Indian reservation. For many years he thought the only rich people in the world were Indians. The oil boom figured prominently in his life, first in Walters and later in his job as a roughneck where he met a host of interesting characters that would later populate his novel set in the Oklahoma oil fields.

Bill attended Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri (go Kewpies!) and in 1936 entered the University of Missouri, majoring in Political Economy with the intention of becoming a lawyer. He was captured, however, by a fascination with politics and the workings of government and stayed with Political Science for his career, eventually pursuing a doctorate at the University of Michigan under the GI Bill after World War II. He was graced in this period by the arrival of his children Steve and Sherry (his “Dolly”) who were the light of his life. His first job out of college was as an economist with the US government. He recalls walking out of the office to get lunch, making an abrupt turn into a Navy recruiting station, getting his physical on the spot and walking out a Lieutenant in the US Navy. He served in the Pacific during World War II as a gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Hadley. He had many entertaining war stories that held his grandchildren enthralled. Favorites among them; the “pet” octopus under the dock in Hawaii who loved to be fed Spam, the raids Bill and his fellow officers made to replenish critical parts for the guns when normal procurement channels were too slow, shepherding spirited enlisted personnel on troop trains, and gunnery practices along the coast of Mexico. In a war filled with tragedy, the worst experience he had was when his ship was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze, killing many of his friends and colleagues. His naval experience continued to be a source of pride for him for the rest of his life.

After obtaining his PhD, he began his career at Southern Illinois University where he solidified his interest and expertise in the functioning and critical role of state and local governments in society. There in Carbondale, Illinois he met his future wife Alice Beardslee. After their marriage they went to Vienna, Austria on a Fulbright sabbatical where their daughter Susan was born. Though in the years that followed they traveled to many places, Vienna would always hold a special place in their hearts. Back in Carbondale they welcomed their daughter Lucy to the family. In 1963 Bill took a summer position at the University of Colorado, Boulder and was subsequently offered a position there. He remained at CU for the rest of his academic career.

Bill and Alice were active members of the community and in Democratic politics, fighting for such political landmarks as the first sales tax to support open space and to keep the public library downtown. They were proud to support the first openly gay and African American members ever elected to the Boulder City Council. Bill served on the Zoning Board for many years, lending his knowledge of the impact of local government decisions on community function to the critical decisions that preserved the unique beauty seen in Boulder today. Bill also ran for Boulder County Commissioner in the early seventies. One of his favorite pastimes was to sit with a drink and a pipe and talk politics for hours with friends and family.

Bill was a compassionate man. He was always concerned with the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Though lectured sternly by his granddaughter that he should give money to organizations that help the homeless rather than to the panhandlers themselves, Bill would never pass someone asking for money without giving them whatever he had in his pocket. He took to heart and often quoted Matthew 25:40 and :45 where Jesus says; “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” He believed in the power and responsibility of society to help the less fortunate, and that political and governmental processes could be a powerful source of good.

Bill was an intellectual. To the day he died, he read two newspapers and countless magazines and literary publications cover to cover every day. He was incredibly well informed, equally at home quoting the King James Bible, giving a geography lesson or presenting interesting obscure facts from history. He was the author of many textbooks and novels. He wasn’t letting his 10th decade slow him down - he had just started to learn the piano. He was also physically active his whole life, having only given up riding his bike earlier this year. He loved backpacking and took his last backpacking trip into the Snowy Range in Wyoming at the age of 89. He was an avid gardener who enjoyed eating BLTs made with his delicious homegrown tomatoes. He took great joy in sitting in his kitchen watching the birds at the feeders, especially the hummingbirds.

Bill was preceded in death by his wife Alice, his son Steve and daughter Sherry, and his three siblings Peter, Hauser and Ada Lou (Winter) West. He is survived by 2 children, 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

We would like to thank all of the kind people of Boulder who made his last years so happy; the kind staff of Ideal Market who always greeted him as a friend, the Wells Fargo bank teller who always recognized him by name and greeted him with a smile, the anonymous passersby who mowed his lawn and shoveled his sidewalks, his neighbors who embraced and befriended him, and all of his friends who kept an eye on him especially Brian Morgan his lunch buddy and Marcia Pasquer who saved his life and sanity after Alice passed away. Thank you all for filling the last years of his life with friendship and laughter.

A celebration of Bill’s life is planned for Thanksgiving week. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Bill’s name to Amnesty International or KVOD (Colorado Public Radio ). View a photobook of Bill at


William Bill O Winter

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