William James Larkins was born in East Liverpool, Ohio and grew up on the Ohio River. The River traveled through life with him, water a constant companion in the ponds at family homes, the Gulf of Mexico, and most of all, the family camp on the Ottawa River. Water can lay still or churn with motion, and Bill was capable of both quietly listening to the lapping waves on the shore or rising to action to educate and make the world a better place.
Bill married Marjorie Quay over 61 years ago after a chance meeting brought about by his coaching basketball in the Orange Schools. At an after-game party at the home of Marge’s parents their eyes met for the first time. They became lifelong educators in the Orange and Kenston Schools, in the Bainbridge community, and most importantly in the lives of their kids, Stacy and Nelson.
Bill put himself through Kent State University, spent two years in the Army, and began as a teacher at Orange Elementary School in 1956. He received his Masters in Education also through Kent State, married Marge, and became the first principal of Moreland Hills Elementary School in 1958. He remained the core of that school until 1970 when he moved up to become Orange’s Director of Personnel and Public Relations, a position he held until retirement in 1989. He was also a lifelong member of Kiwanis, President of the Ohio Personnel Directors’ Association, a member of the New Directions Board, of Orange School’s Gund Committee, and was a Sun Times Community Advisory Committee member. His amazing school career was capped with induction into the Orange School Hall of Fame.
It’s a hackneyed term, but Bill was a Renaissance Man. He was an avid gardener with a small nursery and greenhouse at home, an excellent basketball player with a wicked set shot, a handyman around the cabin, a connoisseur of music and especially the big band era, a newshound devouring the Plain Dealer every day, a community leader, and an amazing father and grandfather. Bill loved to talk sports with his family and friends groaning and then cheering the exploits of Cleveland and Ohio State. He never, ever, missed an event involving his kids and grandkids; volleyball games, plays, cross country, track, choral concerts, and award nights. He was always there. And, he was always at the dinner table discussing the school day, summer jobs, or plans for the next sunset photo across the Ottawa River. He taught Nelson and Stacy how to care, how to be good people, and how to make a difference.
Bill and Marge were inseparable. Nelson’s friends joked that they were “Bargain Bill and his Mate Marge”, but kidding aside, they were such a team. Full of love and life. In retirement, they downsized to Walden in Aurora with incredible winters spent on Marco Island in Florida. Together they were travelers, gathering other couples for adventures that included Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean, South America, the Western U.S., Canadian Rockies, and visits to see Nelson’s family in Maine. They were a smooth act adapting to aging and life.
And what about those grandchildren? Bill was such an easy and steady presence for Lauren, Will, Austin and his wife Caleigh, Brandon, and Evan. Ever the teacher, he led by example. The most moral man you could ever imagine. The grandkids saw a man impeccably honest with a zest for life and learning and a desire to see them grow into wonderful adults. They are each an extension of their grandfather.
Bill passed away on September 10, 2019. And yet, he is not gone. His example of a life well lived will resonate through the lives of his family and friends. He is survived by the sheer power and worth of his life, as well as his wife, Marjorie, of Bainbridge, his son, Nelson, and Nelson’s partner, Karin, of Freeport, Maine, his daughter, Stacy Frank, and her husband, Ted, of Bainbridge, and five grandchildren. (AA, 9/25/19)