William Rudolph (Bill) Boerder died on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at the age of 90 years old. He'd been under hospice care at the Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora, Colorado, for almost a year.
The son of Frank J. Boerder and Julia A. Wolfe, he started his life in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 22, 1929, and spent his early years in Shaker Heights. A born instigator, he was known to sneak out of the house early in the morning to visit the firehouse down the street, climb on the truck and ring the bell until neighbors came to take him home.
At the age of 5, he and his three siblings Betty, Gene, and Bobbie, were sent to live in area children's homes. He entered the Parmadale Orphanage in Cleveland, where he lived for seven years until he and his siblings were retrieved by their father. They had a whole new life in Dallas and three more sisters were born, Dolores, Norma, and Loretta. He was a kind and patient big brother, doting on them unabashedly.
Bill spent his teenage years between Dallas and Austin, graduating from St. Edwards Academy in 1947. He loved all things electrical. In Junior High school he built a portable radio out of an old cigar box, then somehow acquired a military transmitter that he wired to the family car. He and his brother had great fun eavesdropping on Naval communications until it was discovered by law enforcement and confiscated. In High School he worked part-time at the local airport fueling planes, and his lifelong love affair with flying began. He got his pilot's license in 1945 at the age of 16 and passed that passion to his children and grandchildren who still fly today.
So it's no surprise that when called to serve, Bill joined the Navy and served as an electrician on the USS Toledo from 1947 to 1950. He did a tour in the South Pacific and was injured in an electrical explosion. He was honorably discharged from the Navy and started Mortuary School at Baylor University outside Dallas.
Here he met his first wife, Norma, who was studying to be a nurse. Bill worked as a Funeral Director for several years, married Norma, and they had two sons Bill and Scott.
In 1957 Bill led the Electrical Contracting Team working on Martin's (now Lockheed Martin) new Titan I ICBM Missile Factory in Waterton Canyon near Roxborough, Colorado. This is where he met his second wife Julie and they returned to Texas. Some years later, they married and had three more children, Tony, Catherine, and David. The family of seven lived in Dallas until 1977.
A fearless tinkerer, Bill took most of his ideas a few steps further than absolutely necessary, so we never really knew how any given project would turn out. But one of them, a fountain with a flame that burned on the water's surface, was a big hit and he patented the Aqua Flame Fountain in 1961. It was the centerpiece of landscape designs in Dallas hotels, and later seen in Las Vegas. As soon as Bill finished one project, he was on to another - and always on the lookout for a new collaborator. He was generous with his knowledge and thoroughly enjoyed teaching people new things.
Bill led an adventurous life with his family in tow. He worked for Jack Ruby doing electrical repair and elevator service at the Sovereign Club in Dallas. Then he and a friend flew a relief mission to Nicaragua after the earthquake there in 1972. In 1973, he drove the family to Colorado for summer vacation to visit Julie's family and start construction on a new cabin near Blackhawk, in Gilpin County. Working on it only three weeks a year, construction was slow. So the family moved to Colorado in 1977 to spend more time on the cabin and be closer to Julie's family.
By the late 1990s, the cabin was finally finished, but Bill and Julie were getting restless. With the kids grown and some having kids of their own, they moved to Keystone, Nebraska, to retire - but started a business with their son, Tony, instead. Ogallala's newest flooring business kept them busy until Julie's death in 2006.
In 2018 Bill moved back to Denver and entered the VA Nursing Home where he was occasionally ornery with the nurses, danced and sang with the local bands, and enjoyed any chance to go and eat something other than nursing home food.
Bill saw a lot of death in his time. Mortuary license aside, he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to avoid a disaster, save a life, or hold space for someone beyond help. And he had so many near misses himself, that in his final days it was hard for him to imagine that he might finally be at the end of his road. He fought to the very end. It's all he knew how to do.
To know Bill was to have experienced a whirlwind firsthand. A loveable rogue, mad genius, consummate storyteller, insufferable worry wart, a sage of sarcasm, unabashed charmer, gifted pilot, irreverent jokester... He'd rather needle you into a hearty laugh or sweet sentimental moment, but he'd settle for making you mad. Bill was happiest while stirring things up and leading group 'projects' - some advisable, some not. Towards the end of his life, it became clear that all of this was Bill's earnest attempt to engage with others - to love and be loved as genuinely as possible.
The story of Bill's life cannot well be encapsulated in written prose; it's like trying to write about lightning in a bottle. Bill was unique and extraordinary in so many ways, like encountering bold italics on a page of regular print, standing out in contrast to normalcy. As Mae West famously wrote, "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
Bill was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Julie; son, David; brother, Eugene (Gene); sisters, Elizabeth (Betty), Barbara (Bobbie), and Norma.
Bill is survived by his children, Bill (and Kelly) Boerder, Scott (and Michele) Boerder, Tony Boerder, and Catherine Boerder; five grandchildren, Brandon, Ryan, Alisha, Dawn, and Troy; six great-grandchildren, Mariah, Julia, Chloe, Mia, Liam, and Payton; sisters, Dolores and Loretta.
A memorial has been established in Bill's memory for later designation. Condolences may be shared at prairiehillsfuneralhome.com. <
Services will be held on Friday, May 22, 2020, at 3 p.m. at Olinger Chapel Hill Mortuary in Centennial, CO. Graveside services will be held on Friday, June 19, 2020, at 2 p.m. at the Ogallala Cemetery with Pastor Bill Forbes officiating.