Bill always carried a deep affinity for an agrarian life, perhaps stemming from his childhood visits to the Lilly farm outside of Olean, New York. Throughout the years that he and Marie raised their 10 children, Bill maintained very large vegetable gardens. He would take his children to visit an old farmer he befriended to get cow manure for his vegetable garden. Finally, in 1971, he and Marie abandoned metropolitan Rockland County, New York, and relocated to a home with 23 acres of land in Delhi, New York, in the heart of the Catskill region. It became his “farm”.
Bill joined another attorney to open a law practice. He seemed to take special pleasure in offering legal services to those who had little money but could provide a side of beef or poultry or pure maple syrup as barter. During this time, Bill also voluntarily served the community as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for the local ambulance service.
It can be said unequivocally that Bill was an extremely hard-working man. His intellect was evident in his accounting skills and his understanding of the law, but there was also evidence of a self-taught craftsman. He designed and built a two-story addition to the family home in West Nyack, New York. He taught himself framing, roofing, plumbing and electrical work. He salvaged much of his building materials from demolished homes. Bill also was a fine baker of breads, donuts, and fudge, and took great delight in leading his children and grandchildren on berry picking adventures on his homestead in Delhi.
The later years of Bill’s life seemed to be the most contented. He and Marie looked forward to large family gatherings in Delhi, and to occasional family reunions with his sisters and their families. Bill always found much joy in babies and little children, and being generous to others. Bill and Marie always had room at their dinner table for others, some of whom lived in their home for periods of time. He had a knack of getting others to reveal much about themselves while he was more inclined to be non-disclosing. Consequently, his family is left with an incomplete narrative of this man, especially that of his early childhood and adolescent years.
In the end, Bill’s passing at age 79 was warm and peaceful. While Bill had survived cancer, open heart surgery, and the emotional heartbreak of losing his son Kevin, he would not survive acute respiratory distress syndrome following a surgical procedure. So, his children made their way one last time to be at his hospital bedside in Sarasota, Florida. Bill and Marie had made previous plans to have a memorial mass celebrated in honor of son Kevin’s birthday. Now, with his children gathered for final goodbyes, Bill insisted they leave him to attend the memorial mass. When they returned to the hospital and he was assured Marie had taken them all to a nice lunch after mass, he asked to be removed from life support. On 30 November 1995, Bill Shank passed on.
His devoted wife, Marie, survived him for 20 more years and a day. His legacy endures in his children and grandchildren.
Compiled by John Shank - 17 April 2017