William Robert Gould, 93, of Sarasota, Florida died on April 1, 2021 with his daughter (Kim), son-in-law (Jim) and granddaughters (Melody & Larissa) by his side.
Bill aka “Rocky” was born on August 22, 1927 in Westborough, Massachusetts to Florence (née Shannon) and William R. Gould, Sr. He was the second oldest of four children. While Bill and his siblings struggled during the Great Depression they were additionally impacted when their father died of pneumonia in 1934. Bill began “working” around age 8 and continued through high school doing odd jobs, peeling potatoes, tarring roofs on businesses, picking apples….you name it and he probably did it.
Like his siblings he did very well in high school and was accepted to Boston University with plans to become a history teacher. However, before graduating high school in May of 1945 Bill enlisted in the army and was inducted on his 18th birthday that August. After basic training he spent his military career at the Pentagon in the motor pool as a dispatcher. He was often a practical joker with his vehicle assignments though not always appreciated by the senior officers. But Dad and his buddies had a lot of laughs.
After the war he attended Boston University on the GI Bill and shared an apartment near Fenway Park with friends. At the start of his sophomore year there were some administrative issues with tuition and GI Bill funding that he was unable to quickly resolve. Therefore, he changed gears and got a job as an Inspector at Norton Company in Worcester, MA. While he was constantly playing practical jokes on his colleagues, there were no short cuts to his machine inspections and the quality of the products. Norton management often requested that he fly to Germany or Japan to train the buyers of their equipment, but he was not a fan of flying and always declined those opportunities. However, when the Japanese and German representatives visited the plant in Worcester, he would always learn some of their day-to-day phrases and for many years his family and friends might be greeted with “Ikimasho” (let’s go), comments like “Daijoubu” (all right) or “Achtung” (danger) to something they may not have actually had any danger to it, but it sounded interesting when he said it in his exaggerated accent.
On his 22nd birthday, Bill celebrated with a few too many adult beverages. His buddies were in similar shape, so his future wife (Hazel) literally picked him up, put him in her car and drove him home. After that, when they were out on a date – in Hazel’s car – as they were going around the rotary downtown, he would jump in the backseat and whoop and holler for everyone to see much to Hazel’s dismay.
Bill and Hazel got married in 1951 and started the first of many 5-year plans. They bought land “way out of town” on Ruggles Street with the goal to build a house with Bill doing the majority of the work himself. Bill would work nights at Norton Company and spent two years during the day lifting cement blocks – one at a time – and built a solid ranch house on a hill that still stands today and has been lovingly improved and expanded by friends, Janice and Bob Laptewicz.
While living in Westboro Bill was active in the Masonic Siloam Lodge, golfed in a couple of leagues, and golfed on vacations all over New England and Canada with Hazel and Kim. He and Hazel had many BBQs, badminton games, Halloween parties and other family adventures with Hazel’s sister (Ethelanna) and brother-in-law (Dick Tibert) and their children (Lauren & Gary) who lived nearby in Westboro. There were also many Thanksgivings and summertime/pool fun with Bill’s sisters (Anne and Rosemary and their families) who lived nearby in Massachusetts and NY.
Bill belonged to an old car club and got some rebuilding assistance with his 1927 Whippet. But he became obsessed and passionate about rocks & minerals as a member of the Worcester Mineral Club. Also, he kept the Westboro basement full of entertainment for Kim and her friends with a pool table, darts, and player piano where “Heart and Soul” could always be heard. Additionally, the back yard had a permanent platform for Kim’s tent (to keep her dry and comfy) plus a screened in porch for summer relaxing. He kept a grill off the kitchen and was the summertime chef. He even eventually added an outdoor shower which he used from spring to fall longer and longer every year. We all enjoyed the view of the moon and stars in the backyard oasis he created.
When Bill turned 54, he “retired” from Norton’s (which was then owned by Warner & Swasey) and he and Hazel (also retired) moved to Etowah, N.C. where they built their second home near the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. They continued to golf and enjoyed learning about the geography and uniqueness of Western N.C. He was also very involved with the local mineral club and volunteered at the museum in Hendersonville, took members on guided digs and took many classes on gems and jewelry making at training camps in Georgia. He and friends had many memorable trips to New York searching for Herkimer diamonds as well as closer digs in South and North Carolina. He eventually got a diamond faceting wheel and designed and cut many gems for rings, necklaces and more. His favorite way to spend a day was to be in the basement with a fire in the stove – at his faceting wheel – listening to big band music, Frank Sinatra, or Vance Gilbert.
His other favorite thing was having his granddaughters (Melody and Larissa) visit. He took them water tubing, hiking, fishing, built them stilts, taught them how to sift for gold and delighted them with pizza parties in the woods. He even bought them a tent for the backyard which eventually took over his basement (while they visited) which he didn’t mind because he wanted them to feel safe.
As time passed, Bill and Hazel made a several road trips to explore the mid-West, Colorado and Arizona. And there were the ever famous “mystery rides” that promised unexpected wonders and new friends. And wherever Bill traveled – he always – ran into someone he knew.
Bill was especially kind and gracious once he and Hazel needed to leave their NC home and allowed Kim to move him several times. Bill sorely missed Hazel after her passing in 2018 as they had been happily married for 66 years. Eventually Bill got a bright assisted living apartment – near Kim and the girls in Florida – overlooking a pond with lots of unique Florida birds and animals to entertain him.
A celebration of life will take place later in 2021 or 2022 in Massachusetts for family and friends to share “Uncle Billy” stories and to toast the generous, sweet, kind man he was.
Plans are for a military committal at the Sarasota National Cemetery on May 14, 2021.
In memory of Bill, gifts may be given to the non-profit Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County, 400 N. Main St., Hendersonville, NC 28792. www.mineralmuseum.org