In Memory

Wiliam Fielder

Wiliam Fielder

Sadly he took his own life at the age of 20.

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01/07/10 11:01 PM #1    

Eric Swartz

Bill and I attended U.C. Berkeley. We were in a history or sociology class together, can't quite recall. Sometimes we sat next to one another in class. He used to walk around campus smoking a pipe and wearing a tweed coat with a vest. He was quite the intellectual. I used to bum cigarettes from him all the time, which bugged him no end. I remember him giving me two packs for my birthday. Bill was an odd bird and a loner, that's for sure. I believe he was dating a well-known poet at the time of his death. The last time I saw Bill was 11 days before he died. It was the day that George Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer while campaigning for president. I ran into Bill on Telegraph Avenue and asked him whether he had heard the news. He just shrugged. Bill was living in Unit I (the tall dorms) off-campus. He jumped from the 8th floor lounge. I spoke to the woman who was in the room at the time. She said he simply walked in, didn't say a word, and jumped out the window. Really much promise wiped out at an early age. His mother called me about a week later and asked me why. She kept repeating the word, "why, why.." I didn't have a clue. -- Eric Swartz

01/26/10 12:34 PM #2    

Jim Frangos

I was in Griffiths Hall on the 8th floor which was in the same complex as Ehrlichman . At the time I heard that it was Bill, probably from Eric. I was sad and disheartened to hear that it had happened. I will remember and I am glad to see him at our school site where we all can remember him.

03/01/10 02:41 PM #3    

Jeffrey Greenwald

He was one of my best friends. He got despondent over a relationship and ended his life.

It's tough being the subject of all those youthful feelings...there are some good things about old age.

06/02/10 07:07 PM #4    

Robert Beede

I remember Bill from High School, because his father worked at American Bridge, a very large steel fabrication plant in South San Francisco, with my Dad. It is now the Oyster Point Yacht Harbor. They manufactured the Howard Hughs Exploratory platform from which one of the first super-depth submarines operated from.  They later discovered Hughs had a plan to recover a sunken ship in deep water that was laden with gold from Africa.  American Bridge also constructed the Hetch Hetchy 14 foot diameter water line which exends from the Sierra Nevada's near Yosemite to the Crystal Springs reservoir. The pipe was so large that BiggE trucking had to haul it to the worksite at night, to avoid clogging traffic.  It ended at Las Pulgas Water Temple down near Woodside. As I recall, one of the guys from Mills actually jumped into the water with a rope attached to them, so they did not get washed into the flume that carried the water into the resevoir.  Bill's dad and mine also designed and constructed the giant culverts that transend the Tehachappi's and bring water from the California Aquaduct to Los Angeles.  These were the post-WWII years when America still had the infrastructure to building anything they wanted when they wanted it.  As a kid, I remember going to the plant at night. It was like a fireworks show with cutting torches melting metal, and the building rang from the thunder of giant pipe dropped on the shop floor.

When I first stated at Mills as a freshman, my dad mentioned Bill Fielder was the son of one his work colleagues, and to say hello to him. When I first met Bill, I was amazed at how tall he was, and still recall his quietness. Bill did not say much, but there was always content when he did. Unfortunately, as Jeff Greenwald  mentioned, being a bit different in high school was not often an asset, unless your peers found it entertaining or endearing. Reservation was not an accepted social skill, and we all  prized acceptance during this time in our lives when we were having difficulty just accepting ourselves. We all acted cool to hide our frailty.  I remember how sadly cruel we could be to one another, and especially to those who did not fit the mold of the average high school kid.  I recall that Bill's height was accompanied by a bit of ackwardness, and I was embarassed for how often he was teased in PE.  I remember wishing I was as big as Bob Minkline, so I could tell the Bullies to back off, and not get my ass handed to me. It was too bad that saying, "You're not very nice to people" has more impact on us now than it did then.  Being different does not equate to not needing love and acceptance.

Bill made up for his ackwardness in the classroom, because he was a very intelligent individual. Only the cream of the class got accepted to UC Berkeley.  I was very happy for Bill when he told me of his acceptance, since I just barely got into Davis, and probably should not have gone immediately out of High School, because I had no idea what I wanted to do.

I remember coming home from Davis after finals the year Bill lept to his death. I can't recall the time of year, but I recall how I felt when my dad told me at dinner about Bill, and the grief of his family.  I remember saying something about all the pressures at Berkeley beyond the grueling academic demands... the SDS, Peoples Park, The Black Panther movement, and how I would have never survived in such a chaotic environment.  I also remember mentioning to my folks about Bill being "different" in High School, and that this made him the subject of ridicule by some of the mainstream.  During such a formative time in our lives, I wondered if love and acceptance might have been the ingredient Bill needed to survive the personal trials he met at California's esteemed Land Grant College.

We will never know the  answer to this question, but it is never too late in each of the lives we live today to correct what might have been missing in Bill's short life with us at Mills.  It is all about honoring one another, in spite of our differences, so that all the parts become a healthy whole.  The next time you see someone struggling, think of Bill Fielder, and reach out in your own way. Doing so helps honor those who stuggled in ways we never knew about in High School!


06/14/10 08:31 PM #5    

Eric Swartz

Hi Bob,

That was a touching sentiment. Nicely put.

Bill was troubled and largely unhappy with himself and his life. His mother never realized that. It came as a total shock to her. She was completely devastated. 

Bill had an ironic sense of self, had a sharp edge to his humor, and pondered the world's problems as if they were his own. He didn't suffer fools gladly. I always envisioned him becoming a philosopher or a theoritician of some kind.

BTW-- great background story about your respective dads. They built America!


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