Former Rosehill principal turns 88

By Elizabeth Erickson | Feb 20, 2013

In 1925, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth were burning up the bases, a half gallon of milk cost 28 cents, Calvin Coolidge became the first president to have his inauguration broadcast live – on the radio – and the Canadian government began allowing the sale of beer.

Another notable event occurred on Feb. 12, 1925 when Frankie and Henry Rohweder gave birth to William in Burlington, Washington. Bill, as he’d fondly be called throughout his life, was their third son.

Bill’s dad Henry worked for Burlington Northern railroad. His grandparents had been loggers, farmers and bankers. Bill remembers an idyllic childhood in rural Skagit County.

“Burlington” Bill said, “was a nice-sized town with a little bit of everything, even a movie theater for Saturday matinees with older brothers Jim and Ralph.”

After graduating from Burlington Edison High School, he worked his way through college at Western Washington State in Bellingham. “I was going to be a lawyer, but along the way I decided to pursue my teaching certificate.”

In 1948, a 23 year old fresh out of college, he began his career with the Mukilteo School District as a teacher at Wilson Elementary. In 1956 he was 31 years old and accepted the role of principal at Mukilteo’s Rosehill School.

It was during this period he met Irene Brodie, a bright young teacher at the school. His first memory of her was when he was walking into the superintendent’s office next door and “...there she was!”

From Bill’s current apartment that overlooks Mukilteo waterfront, he looks back at the Rosehill Community Center that is sited on the ground where they met.

Their first date was to the Mukilteo Fishing Derby where Irene caught that year’s Derby Champion “right off the dock! She was a wonderful woman, just beautiful,” Bill said.

Irene may have caught that days Derby winner but Bill knows he reeled in the catch of a lifetime; they were married in 1956.

Over the next 22 years Bill served as principal of Olivia Park, Fairmont, and Lake Stickney elementary where he remained until his first retirement in 1978.

One of his greatest loves was racing his sailboat, the "Hecate" around Puget Sound. He spent many happy summers sailing with Irene and their two daughters, Kay of Snohomish and Patricia of Seattle.

In their semi-retirement, Bill and Irene purchased the Northwest Passage Restaurant in Bellevue, which they ran and operated for several years.

When they really retired, they continued their love of the NW, and hiking, camping, bicycling and skiing throughout the Cascades and Olympics. Their dreams of seeing the rest of the world together ended when Irene Rohweder lost her battle to ovarian cancer in 1987.

Yet over the next two decades, Bill continued to travel to the far corners of the earth, visiting almost every country and continent; pyramids of Egypt, India’s Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China. And he bicycled across Europe.

His second great fortune in life has been traveling with his good friend, Dee Robinson. Over the last 25 years, they have journeyed far and wide together and still head out for local journeys along the west coast.

His grandchildren Jacob, 27, Joel, 25, and Mia, 17, bring great pride. His face lights up with visits from friends and family members from around the region.

Slowing down a bit, Bill enjoys most days watching sailing boats and ships from his deck overlooking the waterfront. He still reads voraciously, and without glasses; even his doctor is astonished!

Today’s journeys are shorter. Occasional outings with Dee to Mukilteo’s own Gathering Place, the Red Cup Cafe where he enjoys “a cuppa coffee” with lifelong friends at the Table of “Nalage.” (The length, breadth, width and depth of experience at that table cannot be measured.)

Where does he still want to travel? “I’d kinda like to see Antarctica,” he said, with a grin. And maybe he will yet.

Happy 88th Birthday Bill, from your family, friends, students and admirers far and wide!

Community invited

Celebrate with Bill this Saturday, Feb. 23, from 1-3 p.m. at Gallery Homes, 700 3rd St. in Mukilteo. Write down your remembrances of Bill and bring them on Saturday or email them to erickson@galleryhomesre.com to be added to his memory book.

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