As our church and community mourns the death of Bill Mendoza this past Labor Day, I pause to reflect on what Bill meant to me. Bill was a gentle giant of a man, humble and unassuming, who quietly walked the life of faith better than anyone I have known. He was not so interested in arguing with people as he was in accepting and loving people as they were. He took seriously God's call to care for creation, living with consistency the mantra of "Use, Reuse, Recycle"! He never threw anything away that couldn't still be used for something! His family cherishes a wooden spoon that Bill loved to use when cooking that had been worn down to half its original size. "It still works!", Bill would say.
Bill loved the great outdoors. He loved music. He loved the students he taught for over 30 years. He loved his church. But most of all, he loved his wife, Beth, their children Clair, Ben and Patrick, granddaughter Vanessa (whom he and Beth have raised) and their newest granddaughter, Alexis.
Every year, around the first of December, Bill (with help from Ben) would string thousands of lights and a huge star on the tree in front of the church on Riverside Drive. He would climb the tree and sling the lights over limbs and through branches. He did it quietly, like everything else, with no fanfare and no expectation of recognition. That is just the kind of guy he was.
When I got the call about his tragic death while kayaking on Mono Lake, a place he particularly loved, my heart broke. What a loss. The world needs more Bill Mendozas, not less. But God gave Bill to us as a blessing. We had him for 57 years, and in that time he made a difference. I hope that when I pass, people will say that of me. In the mean time, I want to be more like Bill Mendoza.