Operation World Team – Jason Mandryk

I inherited a connection with Bill as part of the package when I joined Operation World back in the mid-1990s. How much I learned from him and his friend and colleague Mike O’Rear in those years – about mapping, about databases, about research, about being a Kingdom worker, and about being a man of God.

 

The connection naturally persisted over the decades as the relationship between GMI and OW has always been a close one. And for that I was thankful in ways that extended far beyond the shop talk. I had the privilege of hosting Bill in England during his occasional visits, even as I had the pleasure of staying with him in Colorado Springs. His input and advice to OW throughout the years has been invaluable.

 

Probably the most profound memory is also the most recent. Operation World was moving out – reluctantly but necessarily – from Bulstrode, its home of almost 40 years and into a future unknown. The team had dispersed leaving only two of us as full time team members, but without any confirmation of where we were going to be based in the months and years to come and with a mountain of unfinished tasks. Morale was pretty low. Almost out of the blue, Bill offered his assistance in whatever needed doing. We asked him to take responsibility for packing up and labelling decades worth of books and files that OW had accumulated. It was a dusty, sweaty, heavy, and somewhat monotonous job that took a couple of days, but Bill did it with gusto and joy, and blessed us incredibly in those final few days of our time there – with his prodigious amount of hard work, but also with his encouragement and friendship during a time of major transition.  One of Apple’s early company mantras was “Everyone sweeps the floors” and Bill was a living example of that to us. Christlike servant-heartedness and genuine friendship is perhaps an even better way to describe it.

 

He will be missed by us, but we look forward to a joyful reunion one day!

 

Jason Mandryk, on behalf of the Operation World team

 

Bill at Camp – Cousin Laurie

            Tuesday night at the campfire, Bill sat next to me and wanted to continue talking about what we had touched upon earlier in the day about his recent life changes, our similar difficulties at work, and how he was learning how to pick up after himself (something he mentioned that he should of learned in kindergarten).  The conversation was thoughtful and meaningful and with a  touch of humor.  We sat long past the time that everyone else had left the campfire, much like you do with your best friend or sibling for those special camp talks.  It was the longest conversation I had ever had with Bill.  He left for home the next morning.

On Wednesday night the younger of the Lushington clan came up with the idea that they wanted to make s’mores in the river, so they fashioned a raft, soaked it thoroughly and built a campfire on it.  A table was set in the river festooned with s’more ingredients, and while singing “Burn Fire Burn”, the young ‘uns roasted marshmallows while sitting in the river.  The floating campfire was truly beautiful and the evening was magical.  As the floating campfire drifted off in the current, Carolyn and I spoke of it as a pyre and waved good bye to our imaginary relative as he disappeared into Valhalla.  Carolyn shot the imaginary flaming arrow at the pyre as if to light it while I waved goodbye and it was a playful moment between us.  It wasn’t until the following morning that we learned that Bill had died the previous day some hours before the floating campfire was lit.

Thursday night, at our usual gathering around the fire, we held a memorial campfire for Bill and each told a story or memory of Bill at camp including his increasing openness with us over the past couple of years and, of course, his inspired rendition of  “A Sourdough Story” poem.

We have spent 60 summers or so with Bill at camp, and of the ten cousins who played together so many summers together,  he is the first to leave us.  It is hard to believe he is gone so soon.  Cherish each other and each day.

My Memories – Tim Young

I first ran into Bill by “accident.”  I was a student at Taylor University and was trying to do a missions trip the summer of ‘93.  I was effectively stranded on campus, waiting for my visa and plane tickets, and had nothing to do with my day.  So I walked down to the computer department.  One of the earlier “ICCM” (International Conference on Computers and Mission) conferences was being hosted at Taylor, and was held right next to my beloved computer-lab.  Most importantly, however, was the pile of snacks they had on the tables.

The computer missions guys, one of whom was Bill, invited me to partake in their snacks, sit in on some of their meetings, and talk with them.  I have been to 28 or more ICCM conferences since then.

During that first conference, they were discussing the need for a “well-funded itinerate guru”, someone who the missions did not need to pay, who traveled from mission to mission, helping out with their technology.  Those words do not exactly match my job description, but it is very close to what I do today.  Bill, and those at the others at the initial ICCM conferences were a big factor in shaping the missions work I do today.

Bill and I always had an interesting relationship.  We jokingly said that things would break just before I got there, just so I had something to fix while I was visiting.  It was a little bit more than that.  The Lord allowed me to be of special service by managing my availability, and He made me available for a vast number of issues that Bill needed to face.

Once, when Bill was working on getting an Operation World finalized, he was running out of time.  He sent me an email saying something to the effect of, “I do not know where in the world you are, but if you have a few days to help, it would be highly appreciated.”  I was quite literally across the parking-lot from his cry for help, and I had the next week clear on my schedule.  It was quite the joy to see the shocked look on his face when I walked into GMI minutes after he sent me that email, saying, “You called?”

Throughout the years, we have had many such stories.  When Mike O’Rear died, Bill’s email server crashed at the same time.  He contacted me to see if I could look into it.  I had just returned from Africa, and had a few days scheduled for “recovery time”.  I had thought it was going to be for my personal recovery, not for GMI server recovery.  But, God knew what was needed.  I had the time, and I managed to get the server recovered.  Bill and I walked down many roads together, with server crashes, hackers, upgrades, and hard-drive replacements.  It was a pleasure how the Lord usually allowed me to be available at the times when Bill needed it.  And it was a joy working with him and the rest of the GMI crew.

 

Bill loved to play games with words when he talked.  If there were multiple ways to say a sentence, he seemed to find the one with the longest words, and one that had some sort of humor in it.  He seemed to know a lot about just about everything, and was more than happy to explain it to you in great detail.  Many people who are that intellectual can sometimes get a little prideful, but Bill was humble; truly a servant at heart.

It was a joy to have spent part of 2017 with Bill in Kenya.  While we were there for the ICCM Africa conference, Bill spent some time helping out at one of the Christian universities.  Bill was helping two of the Kenyan interns troubleshoot one of the switches that was not working.  They had opened it up, plugged it in, and were listening to find where a strange sound was coming from.  While they were watching, a capacitor exploded with a loud pop, sending pieces of it bouncing around the room.

That room was attached to a computer-lab, and all the students in the lab turned at the loud pop and the chorus of yelps that immediately followed.  I resumed working on a server with the intern I was working with, and Bill and his interns went back to his switch.  Fifteen minutes later a second capacitor blew up, complete with the same yelps and hollers as before, much to the amusement of everyone.

Bill continued to work on the device, now with at least two pieces of it exploded.  The interns dutifully looked over his shoulder, as if there were something more to be done with it.  And then, with a look of absolute amazement, bordering on worship, the interns watched as Bill got the switch working.  But what was more impressive was that the interns somewhat understood what Bill had done.  I doubt they would want to duplicate his exploding switch trick, but they certainly were eager to continue working in networking.  I did interact with one of those interns a few months later as she was tracking some networking bugs down.  She asked me to send Bill, her mentor, her greetings.

Whether it was helping hang sheetrock for widows, volunteering to run a hostel on the Camino de Santiago, or doing computer work, Bill did it not to show off his great brain, but because he truly loved people.  He was a great servant, an interesting teacher, and a man who loved his neighbor and who loved his God.

– Tim Young, Field Consultant, LightSys Technology Services

Some Memories

Thanks to Steve, Ed, and Anne for these great little vignettes.

Bill was one of the closest friends I’ve ever had.  I felt loved and valued by him.  In the photo he is teaching me the GMI phone network.  I loved doing anything that let me work with Bill. Before his death we swapped book

s and took many heart-to-heart walks.  Bill & I both walked Spain’s Camino
 De Santiago.  We lived in their home in Colorado.
– Lee Miller

Fond memories of community nights at the Oxford House for Wayward Boys in Pasadena. Bill organized literature read aloud evenings. So many laughs! Was it Bill who read excerpts from Twain’s, “The Awful German Language”?

Bill Dickson was a kind,  generous and wise follower of Christ.
– Steve Lied

Somehow I was asked to call a square dance at Bill and Linda’s wedding reception. The band (acoustic, including a really good mandolin player) and I had one rehearsal, and then the big event came. There were one or two squares of very game (good for them) and rather confused (bad for me) dancers giving it the old college try. If I recall, this was a recreation of a former time in Bill’s life, but I’m not sure we did it justice.

Sorry to see him go home so early. Best to all,

– Ed Wischmeyer
Christian brothers are usually a joy to be around. As a former women’s libber that is saying a lot. My friendships with men were strained again after Rick died. Bill was one of those bright spots who radiated the love of Jesus, and I only spoke with him a few times. When I think of how smart he was, I am impressed with his patience and kindness. Last year my husband and I were stranded in Colorado Springs when our already-paid-for-hotel room was overbooked. It was 11pm before another hotel was found for us. I quickly phoned Bill and Linda and reached them as they were flying out of CO. They offered their home giving us the password and telling us where to find a key. Such openness and hospitality…..I am sad for your family and for the Christian community. I know Jesus is crying with you.
– Anne Rodgers

A Rush of Recollections – Alan Paeth

                                                                Kelowna, BC

                                                                4 Aug 2017, 2pm

Bill Dickson — A Rush of Recollections

Bill and I, while well known to each through a mutual friend (Dave Dewey), only first meet at David’s memorial service following a hiking accident. Those two were fellow Miramonte High classmates in Moraga (Orinda) in the East Bay Area.

Two boyhood scientists with a shared love of electronics. Both also enjoyed the great outdoors. (Bill could not speak of winter climbing in Sequoia or of the John Muir Trail without becoming animated). As troop-mates both were working toward their Eagle Scout rank. Based upon their empirical observations of the universe, both were atheists.

Bill took exception to the Scout’s motto which concluded “thrifty, brave, clean and REVERENT” as he could not be completely certain of God’s existence, neither could he lie. Unwavering and consistent, he (unlike his close friend) would refuse the oath and with this rare honor being otherwise fully qualified. “Just ANY kind of God-being!” his scoutmaster implored, but Bill was unmoved.

I have yet to meet anyone with a greater sense of personal integrity.

In late 1980 I hoped to leave Xerox Pasadena (first job out of Caltech) and advance to Xerox Palo Alto Research. I interviewed, with trepidation, Halloween 1980. It was Bill who provided both a place to stay and entree to that city. I had no Stanford contacts but quickly learned that along University Ave. I could watch movies at the Varsity, enjoy ice cream at Liddicoats (gelato would come later), and read SciFi at The Printer’s Inc. Bill was a colleague and contemporary but also, without any condescension, an older brother helping me navigate both an unfamiliar city and also an unfamiliar time in my early adult life. Both my job and my new lodgings came through splendidly and were nearby: Work was at 3333 Coyote Hill; two miles NE at 3340 Middlefield Ave. was home. At “Middlefield Manor” five young Christian men (Bill D, Bruce, Bill K, David, Alan) lived out the words of Psalm 133. Bill enjoyed my grasp of German and began answering our phones (we had two!) as “Schloss Mittefeld”.

Bill’s resourcefulness and interrelated helpfulness were boundless. Two prime examples follow. In late March 1981 I moved north from LA. On my first Sunday I confided to Bill that after a crushing breakup coincident with my father’s death, both in 1980, I was ready to be a hermit and enjoy the hammock I’d set up amid the pines of our “manor”. He would not have it, I now realize, but raised no visible objections. Instead, he responded “Hey, I’ve got an idea! I’m throwing a full-on pancake breakfast for ‘Zwischenfolk’ next Sunday.” These “between people” were a few dozen 20s-30s single professionals, all attending Menlo Press, a church of thousands. I was now part of Z-folk and needed to be introduced. “Ladies especially welcome. And you WILL be there”. How could I not? My bedroom was just down the hall.

At brunches’ second seating the last lovely lady introduced to me was a very striking brunette and Stanford violinist with an MA in education. I offered that I was from a musical family, earning an unconscious eye-roll at what was a far too often repeated cliche. “I’m sunk”, I thought. We wed two years later.

As a second example of resourcefulness: In that first year we both worked high tech jobs. He commuted to “the City” (SF) and at our Sunday eve clan gatherings would agonize over the corners being cut in the engineering of the new Moscone Center. I, by contrast, biked to work and was enjoying a desktop with mouse and PC networked to a laser printer. But Xerox PARCs vision of the future ended at my lab’s door — our secretaries still lived in an 80’s medium-tech world which had no e-mail; the telephones had hold buttons and rotary dials.

One day my group secretary lamented “I NEVER get FUN messages on my answering machine!”. That night after dinner I told Bill to be quiet with the dishes as I intended to play the entire album side of Alice’s Restaurant onto her machine. I was trying to stretch the ultra-long coiled cord of the kitchen phone’s receiver all the way to the stereo by the study. “Not the right way to do it”, Bill offered, “You need to couple directly to local loop, not air coupled”. I objected: “I can’t wire directly to the loop! Telephones run on 48 volts!”. He: “by ‘couple’ I mean an audio transformer”. Me: “but who has one? And what impedance?”. He: “I have one: 600 ohms. Standard for PA work. I’ll go get it”. (Insert gratuitous “Be Prepared!” motto here).

Within a minute he’d produced not only the transformer but a suitable wall jack with clip leads; a veritable telephone linesman. One minute later Arlo’s LP was spinning and I was serenading the secretary’s answering machine. Me: “Bill! You are amazing! Lucky coincidence that Public Address systems and the Bell System both employ 600 ohms. Him: “Well, actually not. You see, when audio standards were first set up…” And loveably and very characteristically, a technical torrent followed, describing vacuum tube plate impedances, the virtue of reused standards, research within the Bell Labs, how and why he just happened to have such a transformer on hand…and so on and so on. Note: Do Not Ask or he will Very Helpfully Break It Down Even Further For You.

Encyclopedic. While Google might be fast at finding factoids, Bill understood them in their entirety. One big integrated, interrelated comprehensive whole. A “Gestalt”. And then would break it down. And then some more! Bill’s world was always wonderfully consistent. And when at last his boyhood friend found God (or rather, Jesus found Dave) and shared his discovery with Bill, it was a done deal. God is good. God is real. God interacts with His creation. Let me share.

In my imagination I see Bill, back in California, advancing again down the road of life, wondering just what the next highest peak might be. I’m a bit envious that his life-passage proved brief and seamless. One moment northbound on 101. A juncture! A life crossroads. “Off belay!” A gentle loosening of the wheel, the piloting of his earthy conveyance of fading importance. “Belay on!” as a nail-torn Hand takes in the slack, a tug to say all is safe and secure. The Boy Scout’s fabled and unattainable “sky-hook” now anchored to a place beyond the clouds, tethering Earth to Heaven. “Climbing!” Bill calls upward to his Belayer. And with great intent and expectation, William, now both fully clean and fully reverent, ascends beyond the ranks of eagles. He summits and reaches out to touch the Hand of God.

Well done, dear Friend. Enter Thy rest.

PS  –  And pass along my greetings to David D., to Cathy P. and to Ernie D.

Thank you for the earthly introductions.

PPS –  Take care. We will all join you, bye and bye.

 

Alan Paeth

Welcome

A memorial service for William Eugene Dickson will be held on Saturday, August 12th at 1pm at the West Valley Presbyterian Church, 6191 Bollinger Road, Cupertino, California.

In memory of Bill’s passions and life’s work, contributions may be made to LightSys Technology Services, Save the Redwoods League, Covenant Presbyterian Church Missions Department, West Valley Presbyterian Church Missions Department, or the charity of your choice.

LightSys and former GMI colleagues put together some great information on Bill’s ministry.

I set this site up to try and share the multitude of warm wishes, stories, and photos we have received in the last few days. We’re encouraging people to send us memories and photos you have of Bill to inmemorium@dickson4.net. When you do, let us know if you are willing for us to post it here for all those others whose lives were impacted by Bill to read. If you’d like your story to remain private and stay with just our family, please also let us know that when you share.

Thank you,

Jon Dickson