Bill (William) Werst passed away peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2020, after many years of living boldly and selflessly, including the last 2½ years with pancreatic cancer in defiance of an initial 11-month prognosis.
Bill has always been a small-town guy, starting with growing up in a loving family in Bethlehem, Pa., where his father worked and retired as a steel mill foreman. He was an altar boy and a natural leader in school, where he knew how to get on his teachers’ good side so he could clown around at will.
He lettered in three sports in high school, was defensive captain of his football team, and a state champion wrestler. He continued to excel in athletics at Cornell University, where he was awarded a full scholarship, and played freshman football and wrestled all four years, including one when he was undefeated. His Sigma Nu fraternity antics are legendary, and yes, he even pulled off a bachelor’s in education.
Bill taught school for two years before shifting into business. He achieved his master’s degree at San Fernando Valley State College, then began a customer service career at American Airlines. He later founded Growth Associates, an international organizational consulting firm, serving a wide range of clients from ski resorts and casinos to Stanford and University of Wisconsin, and he wrote Common Sense Managing which he used as a training tool.
His real passion was doing good for others. He was an amateur magician who would spontaneously entertain just about anyone with illusions, coin tricks, and flames shooting from his fingers.
And the Santa and reindeer sleigh on the roof of his porch at the entrance to White Salmon was an annual holiday beacon.
Bill helped lead a national handicapped skiing program in which he was also a volunteer instructor, making lifelong memories and friendships with both young and old. He created and successfully ran numerous fundraisers, festivals, public concerts galore, and was responsible for bringing back the White Salmon July 4th Parade and Band Concert in Rheingarten Park.
He volunteered with and served on boards in California and Oregon, and in recent years volunteered with and served on the board of Community Partners. He even took a term on the White Salmon City Council, using his management improvement skills to better define the vision and mission of the city.
Bill was a great friend to many here in White Salmon and to many others far beyond our little part of the world, with whom he generously shared many long and oft repeated entertaining stories from his long and audacious life.
He is survived by his loving children Wendy and Mike, and grandchildren Ethan and Lucy. He is sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.
A favorite excerpt of Bill’s:
“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and loved his task; who has left the world better than he found it…who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had…” – Adapted from Bessie Stanley, 1906
Bill left it all on the field — and his shoes on the mat.