William Lee Clinkenbeard
Bill Clinkenbeard was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Gail and Marie Clinkenbeard. Bill and his twin sister, Betty, joined a brother (also Gail) who was 8 years older. Bill’s father was a switchman for the Union Pacific Railroad who taught his children to work hard, love ice cream, and champion the underdog. His mother was a homemaker who loved libraries, movies, crafts, and anything to do with England. Marie taught her children manners and how to dance, lessons Bill never forgot and never forgot to use.
Bill was determined to explore the world outside Council Bluffs. For him, that meant getting a college education. Although at first he was medically excused from service in the Army, he begged the Army doctor to allow him through because he needed the GI bill to attend college. The doctor told him to go back through the recruitment line, and passed him the second time through. Bill spent his military service as a reporter in Tokyo, and then attended Colorado School of Mines to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. In Colorado, he met his future wife, Marion, and they eloped to be married when she was 19 and he was a 23-year-old college student. For the next 9 months, her aunt Agnes watched Marion’s belly carefully, convinced they eloped because she was in the family way. That wasn’t the case, and children would not arrive until the couple was ready several years later.
The Esso corporation hired Bill out of college, and the couple moved to New Jersey. Their children David, Glenn, Carol, and Jeannie arrived over the next six years. When the youngest was only 6 months old, Esso transferred Bill to Tokyo, and that launched the family into international living and travel. After four years in Japan, they moved to Belgium for six years, returning to the United States in 1973 to live in Miami. As a newly divorced dad, he took early retirement and started a new career as a long range planning consultant to international corporations.
In the 1980’s, a series of personal connections led to an unexpected and rewarding chapter in his life. At the age of 57, he became a real estate developer in Colorado, creating a mountaintop community that included a golf course, lodge and spa, and luxury residences. He shared 7 years of his life in Avon, Colorado with his second wife, Marie Harrison. He loved skiing, even participating in pro-am racing, and was very involved in Bravo! Colorado, Vail’s music and dance festival, serving on the board and fund-raising.
Having kept a love of Florida, he bought a condo on Vanderbilt Beach in Naples and split his time between Colorado and the condo. He met Gretchen Grey, who would become the woman in his life in his final years. He finally retired well into his 80’s and moved full-time to Naples, FL, in the last 3 years of his life.
Bill was full of curiosity. He was a voracious reader of modern history and biographies, avid traveler, lover of classical music, and explorer of the oceans as a Scuba diver. He had the photographer’s eye, and enjoyed cooking. A life-long learner, he learned to ski, paint, speak Japanese, and play tennis and golf as an adult. He started jogging every day before running was popular. When we lived overseas, he joked that he would write a book called Running Away From Home. He traveled to 59 countries, visiting some favorites more than once.
Bill wasn’t afraid to take calculated risks, but he never risked everything he had. A deal might or might not make him money, but he enjoyed the challenge. He had a strong work ethic and loved to connect people. He was a “do-er.” He traveled a lot for work, but when at home, he engaged with the family for game nights, chocolate sundaes, camping trips, and Sunday mid-afternoon pancakes with Mickey Mouse ears.
From their father, Bill’s children learned how to shine their shoes, love music and Victor Borge, enjoy a nice car and good chocolate, and play cribbage. He taught them money isn’t meant to be hoarded; it’s meant to be enjoyed and used in the world. And that fundraising is about relationships.
Bill’s politics were liberal. We joked that he was a lonely Democrat in the Vail Valley and in Naples. Undaunted, he campaigned for Obama and Hillary Clinton in Collier County, working to get out the vote as much as he could. We credit him for turning Florida blue in 2008.
Bill was a self-made man. He achieved the goals he set that defined to him a successful life. He loved living well; he enjoyed having a beautiful home and dressing nicely, drinking good vodka, and traveling in comfort. He lived exactly the kind of life that brought him meaning and pleasure, giving time and funds to causes he loved, and gathering exactly the kinds of experiences of the world that he imagined from childhood. He died at age 90 with no regrets.
Bill didn’t believe in an afterlife. But if there is one, surely he has met up with his twin Betty and they are laughing and painting together. And for those of us who are still here, when our souls leave these bodies and get to wherever it is that souls go, we fully expect to hear the travelogs of all the places Bill has been in the interlude.
Bill is survived by his four Clinkenbeard children, William David, Glenn Warren, Carol Ann, and Jeannie (Jean Lee), a granddaughter and her husband, Siivi Noelle and Anthony Melorango, and a grandson, Kedar William Lutter.