William A. Grinstead
December 26, 1942 ‒ December 22, 2020
Mount Vernon, Ohio
Our Love Story Begins
One September day in 1976, I drove into Bellingham, Washington from Ohio to begin graduate school at Western Washington University. Unbeknownst to me, when I stopped the car on State Street, Bill was across the street staring at me, and the beige Gremlin I was driving. He said to his sister, Charmie, “I wonder who that girl is. I’d sure like to meet her.” Since I was looking for an apartment, I got the local paper, had lunch and a beer, and called a number. I went to the address. My Bill later told me he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the beige Gremlin coming up the street to see about the apartment he had for rent. He ran inside and started vacuuming the carpet until he heard the knock at the door. The rest is our blessed and special 43-year history together.
Jenny and Bill married in Mt. Vernon, Ohio in 1977, and returned to live next door to Bill’s dear mother for 8 years in Bellingham. They had two children, Rachel and Luke, and took many adventurous road trips to Ohio to see Jenny’s family almost every summer, from wherever they lived. They also drove down to California on weekends and sometimes all the way around the country, just for kicks. Bill didn’t like to fly and didn’t sleep well, so they often left in the early evening and drove through the night. He loved driving while Jenny and the kids slept as he listened to music and thought of new stories to tell and write. He loved music and all the great songs of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Elvis, Billy Swan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Credence Clearwater Revival, Patsy Cline, Emmy Lou Harris and Bill Withers, to name a few. He always remembered who sang what and when, and knew most of the lyrics by heart.
In 1984, Jenny got a job in McMinnville, Oregon and off they went on a new adventure. Bill began building houses in the area and Rachel started kindergarten. Later on, so did Luke. Jenny and Bill were in a book club for a few years and together they explored all kinds of topics, universes and ways to have fun that occasionally had something to do with the book they were reading. Bill built a second house for the family just down the street from the duplex they had rented for 5 years just outside of town in a subdivision called Kingwood.
By 1995, Bill was very tired of building in the cold Northwest rain and Jenny started looking for speech therapy jobs somewhere warm. Earlier, the kids had had a grand adventure in New Mexico with Uncle Chris and Aunt Marion, telling stories of sun and sage. Jenny and Bill decided to move to Carlsbad. They had lots of help from Uncle Dave, Aunt Ginny and cousin Steve on their biggest move yet. Once there, Bill built a third home for his family on top of a desert hill overlooking Carlsbad. Bill and Jenny loved the blue skies, the oven heat, and the desert sunrises and sunsets on both sides of the house. He designed and built houses and remodels in New Mexico for 20 years for many friends and clients. Luke worked with his dad for several years before he went to Las Cruces for college. Bill and Jenny found lifelong friends in their pinochle club, welcomed many family and friends to their bright and comfortable home and enjoyed each other more than ever. Dancing, driving and laughing together the whole time.
Bill “retired” around 2011 but continued working for several years until health issues began to creep onto the scene. When Jenny retired in 2015, Bill agreed to move back to Mount Vernon, her hometown, to be with her family and closer to Rachel and family. Once back in Ohio, Bill and Jenny continued to travel, driving to Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia and flying back to New Mexico to see family and friends as often as they could and health would allow. They also received many visitors in Mt. Vernon in their home with the kids and grandkids, family and friends filling the house with noise, too many used towels and so much laughter. For Bill and Jenny it was the stuff of dreams.
By Billy Grinstead
Old lovers were asked to offer testament
To hands held and lips caressed
Doddering, it was assumed prompting was needed
To find words appropriate and glorious
Passion? Oh yes, with every moment precious
Every separation endless from deprivation
Of the source
Light that filled the darkness
Sounds to nurture, silence to sweeten
But also chill, arm’s length chill
Shivering with the warmth in view but unreachable
For hours, for days
And anger at the seeming discrepancy in depth of love
One for the other as viewed through the distortion
Of need, of hurt
Love? A strange word but yes, willing to fall
That the other might stand, walk, or run
Tenderness to enfold, encircle bouts of smallness
With reciprocal bursts of courage and largess
But also indifference when indifference could hurt
Using the other’s need inappropriately, cruelly
To lash out
Indifference as violence when both adored peace
When both revered compassion and empathy for all
And for one another
Stimulation? Oh yes, endless fascination
With bright thoughts that kindled imagination
Intoxication from absorption of sweet brew
Ever changing concoction that tickled the buds
But also boredom, too much knowing
Till comfort covered regard with a smothering
Smooth mechanics disguised their own roots
Left happiness intact but uncherished
For days, for weeks, for months
Still, unfailingly, and just in time
Eyes peeked out of the protective cocoon
Something changed, something surprising
Something quirky, or indescribably
Family? The greatest gift of all
Not one wasted moment, far too little time
The greatest crime of mortality, the richest claim on
Purpose, worth, without the need to brand
Fine responses, with proper editing, we surely have
Enough real life, the proper touch of sentiment
But as I captured the tribute for history
And typed it skillfully on waiting screen
“You want a record, you want a testament?
Then say this, say our life together was
Funner ’n heck.”
William A. Grinstead, 77, passed away early on Tuesday morning, December 22, 2020, at his home in Mount Vernon, surrounded by his loving wife and children. He fought a long courageous battle that started with a minor stroke while working on a roof in Carlsbad. Years later he had heart surgery, dialysis, renal failure, amputations, and a prosthetic leg, along with many other unlucky and uncomfortable health events occurring over the last 10 years. Through it all he worked hard every single day to feel better, changing his diet, taking his insulin, staying on antibiotics, committing to months at the hyperbaric chamber, various surgeries and regular PT/OT sessions to walk again after he lost his right leg just below the knee. He worked hard until the very, very end.
Bill was born on December 26, 1942 in Bellingham, Washington to the late Ellis Baker (Johnny) and Rachel May (Bingham) Grinstead. Bill is survived by his wife, Jennifer (Herald) Grinstead; his daughter, Rachel (Warren) Grinstead-Babson of Gloucester, Massachusetts; his son, Luke (Kinsey Cooper) Grinstead of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and his grandchildren, Winston Ellis Baker Babson, and Cedarmae Babson.
Bill was the sixth of eight children and was preceded in death by his sister, Charmie (and Bud) Hewett of Bellingham; brothers, David Grinstead of Bellingham; Jim Grinstead of Bellingham; Bob Grinstead of Roswell, Georgia; Ray Grinstead of Bellingham; and sister, Ginny (and Rolly) Armstrong of Cathlamet, Washington. He is survived by his brother, Ed (Brenda) Grinstead of Wesley Chapel, Florida; and his sister-in-laws, Nita (Dave), June (Jim), Barbara (Bob), and Shirley (Ray), as well as numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Bill often seemed a quiet man, but that was until you got to talk to him alone or in a small group of favorite people. He loved to talk. He would talk about any topic; religion, politics, music, sports, movies, social justice and usually knew the history, liner notes and stats better than most. He was a student of life and from the time he was a child, he read constantly and remembered everything he read. He was valedictorian of his graduating class at Bellingham High School in 1960. Bill received a full scholarship to Harvard but it didn’t include room and board. Since his family couldn’t afford that expense, he went to the University of Washington for two years and then worked for Boeing as a draftsman. He moved to California in the early 60’s, where he continued his education switching from Engineering to Chemistry at California State in Fullerton. He also worked at Royal Aluminum as an extrusion draftsman in Los Angeles during that time. Over the course of his years there, he owned two Corvettes (1953, 1957) and took rides on his motorcycle along the coast and into the country, loving every moment in the sun.
He also enlisted in the National Guard as a conscientious objector after receiving his selective service card. He was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana with a group of men from Watts and had many stories to tell about that time, stories of events that resulted in his being discharged and heading back to work in California.
He moved to Bellingham about 1970 to be with his mother after his father died. After he moved back he helped his brothers, Ray and Ed, build a home next door to his mom’s house. That was the beginning of his career as a homebuilder and designer for the rest of his working life. It was also the beginning of his writing career, which included poetry, short stories, letters to the editor and self-publishing eight books.
Bill was a poet, writer, pacifist, philosopher and avid reader. He loved a good discussion and was a great listener. He was a beloved uncle to many of his nieces and nephews, cousins, in-laws and extended family and friends. Because of this, he will be remembered as a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend, a talented writer, builder, a man of principles and a defender of the marginalized.
“He’s nice, and he helped me with my math problems. He also turned the TV on for me whenever I wanted,” grandson, Winston, age 8 said. “I loved playing with Grampy and snuggling him,” Cedarmae, age 4, said of her grandfather.
Dad’s poetry sprung out of a philosopher’s heart who saw the wrongs in the world and wanted to help, to say things beautifully and true so that people couldn’t help but listen and want to do good. He never cared much about money and thought it was demeaning to ask for more of it. He worked hard because he respected hard workers. He was more impressed with a man he met that could pick massive amounts of beans in a day than anyone he ever met with money. It was never about stuff or things, Dad was always light enough to travel. Always curious about what was over the next rise in the road and in a hurry to get halfway there. Dad would dunk his head in any body of water that we passed, especially if it was moving quickly over rocks.
How do you write about someone who made you whole? How do you examine those pieces that he placed with loving care through kind words, an open mind and a loving heart? How do you separate those qualities into something that you can tell people about, without falling apart?
He was our center and the person I always wanted to talk to, the person that helped make it ever better and the person that loved me the most. I’ve no choice but to go forward with the theory that he is still here, listening to my children say lovely, rascally things and getting a kick out of it. Happily watching me, my mom and brother, supporting our every move and at the end of the night saying, “Goodnight, kiddo. See you in the morning.” We will miss him forever.
Our Glass Project
Of all the lenses I see the world
I see it best through the ones you helped me build
They click into place with a familiar precision that
Only patience could have constructed
The glass is specially tempered with compassion
It was important to manufacture it this way
The refraction helps me see some honesty
Some sense from this living conundrum
The blues and reds can both be warm
Because you’ve shown me how to calculate
The proper wavelength
Their frame is strong but delicate
Nothing crude, nothing contrived
Thought and purpose hold these lenses in place
And our hands toiled to make it this way together
It binds our vision and maintains our focus
Its strength comes from our years of connection
An alloy of trusted mettle
Because you’ve shown me how to calculate
The proper mixture
Let’s not forget the plans required to produce
Such an essential device
Drawn and redrawn and finally presented
The idea was to see the scary things out there
Through a filter of understanding
Or at the least forgiveness
And to us the graphite lines
On blue grid paper
Were obvious and comforting
Because you’ve shown me how to calculate
The proper dimensions
I say proper not perfect
Because perfect is unnecessary
And perfection requires another set of lenses entirely
Ours are dependable, and crucial
For us to see clearly, the life we’ve shared
For us to see clearly, our similarities
And I love those both unrepentantly
Because you’ve shown me how to calculate
The proper dimension, mixture, and wavelength
To see the world like you do
A Day at the Beach
By Rachie Pachie
“Hard work and perseverance”
he said with a smile
smile and a twinkle
luck and love on his mind
We’d gone to the beach to sit in the northwest sun with our jackets and jeans.
Sat on a blanket and listened to the “never ending new beginnings” as the sand dripped though our finger tips and matchbox cars raced over the peaks,
propelled by the boy.
a dad idea
Dig a deep hole
hop up and wander a bit
pretend to forget about the hole
trip in it
We loved it.
When asked from behind the camera,
on that very same beach
on that very same day
how he’d gotten where he was in life,
“Hard work and perseverance” he said.
No services will be held during the COVID era at this time. The family will hold a celebration of his life hopefully later this year.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be given to your local food bank, Habitat for Humanity, or Doctors without Borders.
The Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of William A. Grinstead.