Sir William of Utila

April 1st, 2012
by Rosemarie Dalton

[private] v10-4-Culture-William JacksonLife brings people in and out of our lives daily. Some vanish as quickly as they arrive and others linger a while to bring a touch of unsuspected warmth and adventure into our lives.

I am sitting here in the quiet of my room trying my best to remember how my friendship of many years began with the author know as William “Bill” Jackson. I remember hearing about his book “And The Sea Shall Hide Them” and wanting to purchase it, since I was told it was based on a true story that happened at sea between Utila and Roatan. Bill had his book published in 2003, and I received my copy shortly after. His descriptions were so vivid that I could actually envision every word. I can still remember how much I enjoyed reading that book.

When I wrote and ordered the book, an unusual connection between us began. Bill and I ended up becoming “pen pals” and instant friends. We exchanged e-mails and phone calls over the years before we actually had the opportunity to meet each other in Chicago. At our first meeting I found Bill to be such a charming gentleman. He was tall but slight of build with a soft voice and gentle manner. His eyes sparkled as he spoke and a grin came over his face as he shared little bits of his life with me.

Bill’s book may never have hit the “best seller” list in the states, but it was a big hit here on Roatan and Utila, especially as word got around that I had brought copies down with me to sell to my friends. Bill was so delighted that the people of the island found his book interesting and appreciated my efforts in bringing down the first 25 in my suitcase. They were gone shortly after my arrival.

For Bill it wasn’t about making money. He was about sharing the stories he learned as a child, stories that had been passed down through the generations. Bill was the greatest of storytellers, and I encouraged him to continue with his writing.

The book which followed that encouragement was also based on a true story–a story which took us down a totally different path as he tells us of a man named William Morgan from Batavia, New York, who was also a distant relative. Mr. Morgan found himself drifting around in the Caribbean and ending up on the island of Utila, where he and a few other men started the profitable business of shipping commercial bananas to the United States.

The demand for this book wasn’t as great as his previous one, due in part because few had heard this story and didn’t relate to it the way they did his first book. But Bill kept writing, intent on producing his memoirs, starting with how he received his name.

He was only able to finish three pages before Alzheimer’s stole all those unwritten words and memories from him. Bill struggled for three years to find them but he couldn’t reach down deep enough to continue. Bill left this world this past June 3, at the age of 85, with many wonderful stories left untold.

What a full life Bill lived. He was only 11 years old in 1937 when he talked his parents into letting him go live with an aunt in Englewood, Kansas, not returning to the island of his birth for 11 years, just before he enrolled in the army in December of 1944. Bill was stationed in the Philippines for a few months before the atom bomb was dropped. Then he was stationed in Kitzingen, Germany, ending his military career as a Sergeant.

After his discharge Bill ended up in Chicago staying with a friend from Kansas and working in a box factory. He then was encouraged by a couple of salesmen to move to Batavia, Illinois, where he helped open another box factory, working there as a plant superintendent until his retirement in 1987. Bill then took a part time job working for a Public Storage Company and started honing his writing skills, an interest he’d discovered in high school while working as the editor of his school newspaper.

I only recently discovered that Bill’s first book was actually a collection of poems he’d written over the years, which he entitled, “Diamonds Are Not Forever.” In all our conversations I don’t recall his ever mentioning this book to me, so it’s come as a surprise. I would have loved to have bought a copy of this collection which I’m sure is filled with the wonderful thoughts of youth, written when they were fresh in his mind.

So I bid farewell to my friend Bill, wishing that he had completed that story of his colorful, adventurous life.

Bill and I had often talked of his returning to the Bay Islands one day if only for a visit, but it never happened. Bill’s brother Baldwin returned “home” several years ago to the warm, beautiful, simple life of Utila–that beautiful island where all five of Edwin and Louisa Cooper Jackson’s sons were born, before they each left paradise to spend a lifetime in the United States.

I can’t help but wonder what tales Baldwin might share with us of his memories of those days of old when he and his brothers were filled with imaginations and dreams that carried them to a distant land. Maybe, just maybe there is another author with stories to share with us. [/private]

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.