William T. Christian

William T. Christian

Chris Cooke remembers: Bill’s Memorial Service in Pasadena was August 14th. Fellow classmates there were Bob Leich, Steve Huntington, Jay Lavely, Dan Dennison and Sam Bruttemesso and myself. The event was well attended, the day was beautiful (but hot) and many great speakers shared their varied experiences with Bill. I was privileged to speak also and thought you might like a copy of my remarks, which I mostly stuck to. Click to read Chris’s remarks.

Karl Schonborn remembers: Bill Christian and I were entryway mates in Lawrance Hall on the Old Campus. I remember well his upbeat nature as we’d trudge over to Commons — come rain, sleet, or snow — to work as Bursary Boys serving dinners. Don’t remember much candy on the menu there, but surely Bill served up his fair share of desserts with his ever-present smile.

Sam Bruttomesso remembers: Thank you for sharing this news, however sad. Although I didn’t know Bill well at Yale, thanks to Jerry Libby’s pre-reunion lunches in LA, I had the privilege of meeting him so many years later. What a kind, upbeat, and giving man! My condolences to his family and all his loved ones. With sympathy, Sam

Landon Carter remembers: I am so sorry to miss Bill’s presence in our world which so needs the happiness, friendliness, and good cheer that Bill personified. Bill’s passing is a constant reminder of the preciousness of this life and I am sure Bill would be saying “carpa diem” from where ever he now resides. My best wishes to all of you on this receiving list. With love, Landon (Bunky)

Chris Cooke remembers: I received word this evening from Barbara Zimmerman, Bill’s wife, that he passed away this morning. Bill had been fighting cancer for many years, but I do not have any more details to share at this time.

I am thankful that I had a chance to visit Bill and Barbara at their home in Pasadena in May, 2019, and that while he was waging war with the disease he was still the happy, smiling, optomistic and active guy we all remember.

Louis Georgantas remembers: I also saw the news which Barbara posted on Facebook. Bill, Bob Herr (also deceased) and I spent 4 fun and memorable years as roommates at Yale. Even though for most of the ensuing years we lived on opposite coasts, we kept in touch. We would talk a lot about the disease which we both battled. I often felt guilty that I seemed to be having greater success fighting it off. But Bill was always optimistic. He wanted so much to live for Barbara and his family. Bill was a decent and loving man, and we will all miss him.

Alan Howard remembers: Damn. I knew him at Yale and got know him again at our 65 lunches in LA. He was a real gentleman. Kind, discreet. I will miss him.

Bob Leich remembers: I was last with Bill here in LA at our Y ’65 pre-reunion lunch in February of this year, just at the onset of the pandemic. He was his usual upbeat self. Attached are a few photos… one of Bill and Barbara taken at their home maybe 12-15 years ago, another from an outing at Candlewood Lake in May of ’64, and a final one on the fence at Berkeley College in ’64. A truly great guy who will be missed by all who were fortunate to have known him.

  • June, 1964

Jerry Libby remembers: I join so many of our classmates in conveying my sadness at learning of Bill’s passing. I didn’t know Bill at Yale, but I came to know him through various Yale events in Los Angeles, including our Class of ’65 events here. He regularly attended those events, as you know, and it was clear he greatly enjoyed them and deeply appreciated being a member of the Class of ’65. He was helpful and supportive regarding our Class of ’65 events, and whenever I called him about them he always expressed his enthusiasm about them, and about Yale in general. He was a particularly warm, congenial man, and I regret that I never got to know him at Yale.

Dick Pearce remembers: I remember joining the self-titled ‘prostate cancer crew’ after one of our ’65 class lunches. (If I remember correctly, It comprised almost a quarter of the attendees that day!) Bill was, exactly as Chris wrote below, the unofficial cheerleader of the group, radiating optimistic energy, sympathy, and encouragement. “We can beat this thing,” his smile seemed to say. In fact, he didn’t need to say anything. He was living it.

I’m sorry to hear the news. I’m sure he fought it to the end and never lost his 100 watt smile. I’ll miss him.

Ralph Protsik remembers: [I had a note] from Bill back in March: “When I read the sterling accomplishments of my ’65 peers, it’s daunting, having narrowed my compass to a little desert river… But I wouldn’t have spent the last 17 years doing anything else.”

Fred Roberts remembers: I want to echo Sam’s message. I, also, didn’t know Bill at Yale, and only got to know him at our lunches. His spirit was praiseworthy, and lives on.

David Roscoe remembers: Boy, do I remember his huge friendly grin…ever present.

Jim Wood remembers: I am saddened by Bill’s death. I feel fortunate to have sat with him at the 50th reunion dinner and to have renewed our acquaintance that went back to freshman year. I will miss him.

William “Bill” Christian – husband, father, friend, lawyer, candy maker, athlete, carpenter, conservationist and lover of wild places – died December 5, 2020 at his home in Pasadena, CA after a long and courageous battle with cancer.   

Bill was born in Corpus Christi, TX to William and Margaret Christian. The family, including his three brothers Donald, James, and John (deceased), eventually settled in Hellertown, PA. Summers spent working in the family candy store on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J. instilled two lifelong loves: candy making and the ocean. To receive a holiday tin of Bill’s famous almond brittle was to know one of life’s sweetest treats.

His desire to pursue a life less ordinary led him from undergraduate days at Yale and a law degree at Harvard to become a VISTA lawyer for Alaska Legal Services Corporation in Bethel, Alaska. From there his career spanned years in government, law firms, and corporations, including Atlantic Richfield Company, in various locales including Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Pasadena.   Upon joining the Nature Conservancy, Bill discovered his real passion for conservation. His work there was instrumental in ensuring the preservation of the area surrounding the Amargosa River, near Death Valley, for future generations. Christian Spring, a water source recently discovered and named in his honor, reflects the life-force he brought to his work in sustaining the wilds of the desert region that he loved.

Bill was always willing to do more. As an educator, he taught an environmental law class at Claremont McKenna College, helping to mentor the next generation of environmental lawyers. He was a founding board member of the Amargosa Conservancy and was on the board of the West Pasadena Residents Association and the Arroyo Seco Foundation.

Bill was a lifelong athlete who enjoyed challenging himself through marathons, cross country ski races, and squash games. He loved experiences and mechanics of the physical world; with creating and understanding how it all worked. His hands were rarely idle, as he was also a master-remodeler with a love of woodworking.  A clear-eyed pragmatist, Bill was guided by a beautiful inner compass for ethics & justice. This was in direct conflict with having no outward sense of direction when behind the wheel of his dusty, beach sand and dog-haired pickup truck.

Bill’s family, including his dogs, meant the world to him and was a constant source of pride and joy.  He was a loving and beloved husband to Barbara Zimmermann for almost 24 years. Together they enjoyed traveling, rescuing dogs, having cocktails on their deck overlooking the San Gabriel mountains and walking along Trail Six in San Clemente, CA. His kids, Sam (Casey Dove), Peter (Erin) and Anne (Zev Reuter) were the lights of his life. He instilled in them his lifelong love of learning new things and getting outside: skiing in Alaska, body surfing in Ocean City, NJ; or exploring the mountains above Springville, CA. His energy and zest for life will be missed by his children, their spouses, and his four grandchildren, Colter, Caltha, Camellia and Will.

His love and legacy will live on through the countless lives and places that he touched.  A celebration of his life will be held once family and friends from far and wide can gather again in 2021.  Contributions can be made in his honor to the Amargosa Conservancy.

Published in Los Angeles Times from Dec. 9 to Dec. 13, 2020.