Celebrating the Life of
March 5, 1956 - November 22, 2020
Please join us as we celebrate the life of
Friday, December 11, 2020
Drop-In Visiting Hour: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Time
Join via Zoom at any time during visiting hour to speak with Bill's family and share memories.
If You Are Using A Telephone
In the US dial +1 (646) 558-8656
Use Meeting ID 983 2287 9674
International phone numbers here
William (Bill) Engler was born on March 5, 1956 in Akron, Ohio and passed away on November 22, 2020 in Panama City Beach, Florida. He spent his last day on earth doing some of the things he loved most—fishing at the beach, facetiming with his grandchildren, and simply being together with his wife. It is ironic that Bill died of heart failure because when it came to loving others, there was no stronger heart than Bill’s.
Bill was born the second of four children, and the first son, to William and Wanda Engler. Like all great big brothers, “Billy” played the dual roles of protector and tormentor and his childhood antics included ice skating in a flooded backyard with Pat, sailing a homemade raft into a retention pond with David, and convincing Amy that a toilet monster would bite her butt if she didn’t flush and run quickly enough. Young Billy was often seen biking the wrong way to school, running “deceptively slow” on the football field (his words), and working his paper route, from which he saved enough to buy himself a red Ford Mustang.
In 1974, Bill began his college education at Miami University of Ohio, where he was a brother of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and a zoology major (aka a party animal). His younger sister, Amy, was in middle school at the time and Bill frequently hitchhiked six hours home for her band concerts. Remembers Amy, “He’d often arrive minutes before and I’d rise from my seat on stage to see him rise from his seat in the back of the room. We’d give each other a little wave.”
Bill graduated in 1978 and began what would be a lifelong career in sales, a field for which his tenacity, good humor, and genuine interest in people's stories served him well. Bill gave his attention generously. He remembered the details of conversations, and sent people articles or songs that brought them to mind.
Work took Bill to Birmingham, Alabama before he moved to Chicago, Illinois. In January of 1982, Bill’s neighbor across the hall, Micki, invited him out for what would prove to be a fateful night of western dancing with her girlfriends. At the Barn at Barrington that evening, he met a captivating young nursing student named Wendy Roberts. Remembers Micki, “At some point, Bill asked Wendy to dance, their eyes met, they danced together the rest of the evening, and they have been together ever since.” Six months later, when Bill was relocated to Detroit, Michigan, Wendy came with.
In October of 1982, Bill surprised Wendy with a trip to New York City. On Sweetest Day, October 16, Bill popped the question on a carriage ride through Central Park. Bill and Wendy were married on April 16, 1983 in Wendy’s hometown of Elgin, Illinois. As published at the time in the Austintown Leader (the Vogue of eastern Ohio) “the bride wore a gown of white tissue taffeta” and her “fingertip veil fell from a wide brimmed hat of raw silk and matching lace.” Bill wore a mile-wide grin.
Following a honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico, Bill and Wendy lived on Dearborn Parkway in Chicago and had a sailboat named the “Wendy Kay” on Lake Michigan. In 1984 they bought their first home, on Seeley Avenue in Downers Grove, Illinois. In May of the following year, Mallory was born. Fifteen months later, her sister Taylor arrived. Bill became Dad.
As a young father, with a full mustache and luxurious head of hair, Bill was a provider and a playmate. He was never too tired after work to “search” for his girls, hidden always in plain sight under the kitchen table. He taught the girls about the important things—like the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Indians, how to use a pocket knife and shoot a BB gun, the rules to Ship, Captain, Crew, how to shake a hand, the importance of looking someone in the eye, and his patented 4Gs of shopping (go, go in, get it, get out).
He fished with his girls at Prince Pond, built Pinewood Derby cars and science fair projects with them in his workshop, made hotdog sculptures and pancake art, invented barbarous (but humorous) ways to pull loose teeth, performed as a fortune teller at Mallory’s birthday party, protected Taylor from monsters in the closet, and sang both girls to sleep every night. He ran Bill’s Beauty Shop, with a signature style of hair flopped through the back hole of a baseball cap. He took his family on trips to California, Colorado, Florida, Hawai’i, and Mexico and camped out with the girls at Indian Princesses. He made magic happen, sneaking loose change into swimming pools and perfect seashells into the sand for the girls to “spontaneously” discover. He made their young lives both a safe harbor and an adventure.
In 1997, the Engler family relocated to Wildwood, Missouri, outside of St. Louis. Raising teenage daughters could frighten the most courageous of men, but came naturally to Bill. He never failed to tell Mallory and Taylor how capable and worthy they were, and encouraged them to follow both their passions and their talents. He made a point to learn the names of their friends and teachers, never missed a recital, show, or game, and absorbed the ins-and-outs of their interests. He built Taylor a ballet bar in the family basement, learned words like arabesque, and copied her moves to make her laugh. When Mallory denounced meat, he took it upon himself to learn innovative ways of fixing portobello mushrooms and eggplant, happy to get creative in the kitchen for his daughter.
He wept every time he saw his girls dressed for a school dance. He was frequently the only dad amongst a sea of moms at fundraisers and field trips. He took Mallory and Taylor on college visits, was the proudest dad at two high school graduations, and held his girls tight when he dropped each at their respective dorms.
After becoming empty nesters in 2005, Bill and Wendy moved to Dallas, Texas. During that summer home from college, Mallory turned 21 and celebrated accordingly. Bill picked her up from the bars as he’d done from countless sleepovers as a kid, and relished that her dad was still her first phone call. He bought a motorcycle and, over winter break, took Taylor to a 70,000-person biker rally.
He lived for father/daughter weekends at the girls’ sororities, playing flip cup and beer pong. He mailed them care packages, comic strips cut from the newspaper, and once, a GAP purse he’d overheard was seen on Sex and The City.
Bill transitioned his career from sales in moving and storage to sales in higher education, a field he was passionate about—he loved the energy of college campuses (see beer pong and flip cup) and believed deeply that everyone deserved college access. This shift took Bill and Wendy to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they bought a boat “The Annie” (named for the family dog) to pilot down the Mississippi.
While living in Minnesota, Bill read an article about Father Bernard Reiser, the founder of the nonprofit Reiser Relief. It moved him, and he became involved with their efforts to end poverty in Haiti. Faith had always been an important undercurrent of Bill’s life, and when he found Catholicism, it grew to a defining feature. He loved the forgiveness, the community, and the ritual.
In 2013, Bill walked both of his daughters down the aisle and was overjoyed to welcome sons-in-law Derek and Charlie into the family. He impressed the newcomers with his deep knowledge of music, love of craft beer, and loose adherence to assigned seating at sporting events. He became not just their father-in-law, but their friend.
In December of 2014, Laurel was born and Bill became Pa, a role for which he was truly created. Bill and Wendy moved to Kansas City, Missouri to be near Mallory, Charlie, and Laurel. In 2016, fate brought the whole family together when Derek and Taylor were unexpectedly relocated to Kansas City too. From there, Bill’s family grew in number and in love. Mallory gave birth to her second daughter, Hollis, in 2017, and her third, Schaefer, in 2019. Bill’s first grandson, Charles, arrived in 2019 as well.
Bill thrived as Pa. Before Laurel was old enough to walk, he started taking her to breakfast every Friday so they could develop a special tradition together. Restaurant workers around Kansas City knew the duo by name. As Laurel grew, Breakfast with Pa became Cookies with Pa, after school on Fridays. Hollis joined in the mix. When Schaefer and Charles were born, Bill was determined to figure out a way to fit four car seats in his vehicle.
He hand-made meticulous wooden block sets for his grandkids’ first birthdays. He bought season passes to the zoo and obliged countless rides on the carousel. He found a free swingset on Craigslist, endured an exhaustive effort to get it home, then spent two-times the cost of a new set to fix it up. Last December he read The Polar Express to Laurel’s class and magically pulled out bells from his pocket for every kid. He held his grandchildren in his safe arms, danced with them, kissed their heads, told them stories, and sang to them. His friends of 35 years, Helen and Bill, remembered that on a visit last fall, “Bill was rocking Schaefer to sleep when he looked at Helen and said, ‘Be sure to sing to your grandbabies. It’s really important.’”
A grandpa to the core, Bill also celebrated life like a man half his age. He took Wendy to concerts, braved below zero temps and snow to tailgate Chiefs games with his sons-in-law, and never declined a Friday evening invite for “happies and appies.”
In 2019, Bill and Wendy achieved a dream when they purchased a home within walking distance of the ocean in Panama City Beach, Florida. Renovations became a pastime enjoyed together, and they looked forward to hosting frequent visitors. Grounded from business travel by COVID-19, in 2020, Bill found himself home more than usual and took full advantage of the extra time with Wendy. He rose early, worked hard, pursued a (largely unsuccessful) fishing hobby, and rarely missed sunset at the beach with his wife. A day did not pass without Facetiming his grandchildren or telling Wendy she was beautiful. Bill couldn’t wait for the holidays and the chance to get back to his children and grandchildren.
Some facets of Bill don’t fit neatly into a biography because they are a recurring theme throughout his life. His love of children. His passion for serving others. How he always jumped to help a friend in need. His inability to tell a succinct story. His unique style of email writing. His handyman skills. His ability to make anyone feel seen and valued. How he was easily amazed. The refrain “Unbelievable!” His hugs. The fact that he always picked up the phone. How freely he wept. How he tidily ate cookies with a hand under his chin. His speed at securing an early boarding number on Southwest. His daring taste buds. His quest for the wildest pizza toppings. His joy, his wonder, his love, and the frequent and creative ways in which he lost his belongings—chances are the moment he arrived in Heaven, Bill patted his pockets and said, “Oh shit, I forgot my wallet.”
Bill is preceded in death by his parents, William Engler and Wanda (Hildebrand) Engler, and his mother-in-law, NanJean Roberts. He is survived by a whole heap of people who will miss him profoundly: his wife, Wendy (Roberts) Engler; his daughters, Mallory Robins and Taylor Burke; his sons-in-law, Charlie Robins and Derek Burke, his grandchildren, Laurel, Hollis, and Schaefer Robins and Charles Burke; his siblings Pat Engler, David Engler, and Amy Booth (John Booth) and siblings-in-law, Pam and Jim Hagle and Jill and Jerry Follis; his father-in-law, Charles Roberts; his nieces and nephews Seth Follis, Josh Follis, Tyler Hagle, Sarah Abbott, Will Hagle, Elizabeth Lawrence, Emma Engler, Will Engler, and Molly Booth and their partners and children; his dear friends Bill and Helen Pearson, and their children Brian, Kerry, and Jenna; and countless other colleagues, neighbors, and friends whose lives he touched.