Jim Brown: Remembering good times with Bill Graham
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Jim Brown: Remembering good times with Bill Graham

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One of Lompoc's families recently suffered a great loss with the passing of Bill Graham. The loss experienced by Mary, his wife and partner and his daughters, Staci and Karlie, is also one shared by many in the larger Lompoc community past and present.

The support and guidance Bill provided to many students over the years in his work as counselor for the Lompoc Unified School District made a lasting and positive difference in their lives. He was an active presence at many community events helping with this and that, always with his smile and great sense of humor. He was also a regular at La Purisima Mission helping care for the horses.

To know Bill was one of life's uppers - all of us who knew him, family and friends, had one or more stories to relate about him including some shared experience or funny lines he cracked ("My dogs are barkin" after a tough run). Whatever great memory of Bill one has, it will always bring a smile to your face.

In addition to being a great husband and dad, Bill was my friend and my colleague. I first met him at a race up in Los Osos when this guy, Bill, raced by me near the finish line and won the Master’s prize. Afterward, he and Mary sat with my wife, Kathy and me in the park and we all became a friendship which has lasted over the years.

When I became superintendent in Lompoc, Bill was my first visit to a school when he was counselor at Lompoc Valley Middle School. We then became colleagues as well as friends, training and racing together. Staci, Karlie, Ted, and Eric - our children - all went to Lompoc High - which our boys still say was a formative, great educational experience.

On my calendar almost every week during track and cross country season was "Meeting with Counseling Dept." That involved Bill driving up to the District Office, picking me up, and then going to one of LHS’s races to see Karlie and/or Ted compete.

Our son, Ted, wrote to me after learning of Bill’s death, about what a classy guy Bill was with his gentle personality, ability to extend good will to everyone, and great sense of humor.

He was "a lot of what I remember most about educators and staff in Lompoc: well-adjusted adults, real grownups, people we could count on, people we wanted to be like when we were older — smart, fun, accepting, not angry persons who led role-modeled balanced lives."

Bill, you made my life a whole lot better. I'll miss you, my friend, and the times we shared running through the Mission, playing Trivial Pursuit, getting together with other Lompoc friends, and driving together to many weekend races.

I've always regretted our plans to do a Ride and Tie together were interrupted by a bad auto accident that put you out of commission for a while. But we made up for it by some bike rides and runs through the Mission and flower fields. And then there was that Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite one Christmas season with Mary and Kathy along with Alice and Ray Down and Mike and Nancy Warren.

I'm sure you're now in a good place bringing those memories along with your cheer and positive outlook on life to a whole new community.

Jim Brown is a resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a former Superintendent of Lompoc Unified School District.
 
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