William A. French, 88, died peacefully under hospice care at his home in Sebring, Fla., June 23, 2014, after living actively for 20 years with heart disease.
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia E. French of Sebring; his daughter, Pamela Hanson and her husband Carl of Grantham, N.H.; his son, Stephen French and his wife Rosemary of Lancaster, Pa.; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild on the way.
Bill was born June 14, 1926, in Brooklyn N.Y., the son and grandson of Methodist ministers. He lived and attended public schools in six different towns around Connecticut and Massachusetts, as Methodist clergy were rotated every few years.
Bill served in the Army Air Corps as a clerk typist at the end of World War II, stationed in Kansas and Texas for nine months. He felt privileged to attend Hilliard Junior College under the G.I. bill, receiving an Associate's degree in Science and Engineering. Subsequently he studied at General Motors Institute in Michigan and worked as a process engineer for New Departure Hyatt, a division of the automaker manufacturing ball and roller bearings, for 37 years.
Bill met his wife Sylvia through their mutual involvement in the American Youth Hostel in Hartford, Conn., in which he served as president. He shared his lifelong love of bicycling with his family, neighbors, and everyone he encountered, encouraging the habits of exercise and love of the outdoors in many.
In retirement, he bicycled across the U.S., with Sylvia driving and biking out from a nightly campground to meet him. He advocated on a national level for respect for cyclists and for bicycle lanes when he served on the Board of Directors of the League of American Wheelmen.
When his employer transferred him to Ohio in 1967, Bill continued singing in local church choirs and the community choral society. He played his cornet in a community band, and organized a local bicycle club which continues to this day. Willing to serve, Bill was president of all of these groups from time to time.
After retirement, Bill and Sylvia were blessed with the health and resources to travel internationally with group tours numerous times, visiting the Holy Land twice, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. They began to winter in Florida, and eventually bought a house in Sebring and moved there full time in 1993.
As a bicyclist, Bill loved the flat, paved roads of Highlands County, and found others who shared his interest. When heart disease precluding such strenuous exercise, he walked his neighborhood with friends twice daily, spoke with other amateur radio operators around the world from his “radio shack” in the backyard, and enjoyed daily conversation with a group of friends scattered around the country through Skype video conferencing.
Bill will be remembered for his practical organizational skills, his ability to engage neighbors and strangers in conversation, his love of music, especially the classics, his willingness to serve in organizations he loved, and his strong sense of loyalty to family, church, and country.
Arrangements for cremation were entrusted to Stephenson-Nelson Funeral Home, Sebring, Fla.