Bill Shelton

By Don Sanford

Last week another skipper joined the ranks of MYC's Celestial Sailors. Bill Shelton-E-Boater, Past-Commodore, Fleet Captain, Scorekeeper, and all-around good guy-passed away at home on December 31, 2014 after a long struggle with cancer.

I believe that Bill joined our club around 1974, commuting from his home in the western suburbs of Chicago to race his M20, Superzap, with our hot 20-boat fleet. In 1976, Bill and his family found the perfect home for a sailor-7 Bayside Drive. Close enough to Burrows Park that on windy days he could walk over in his trademark white t-shirt to see if anyone else had the nerve to go out, and still get back to the pier when he discovered that they were, in fact, going out. Over the years, Bill and Carolyn renovated and remodeled this old house, eventually adding a garage long enough to hold his E-boat (on the trailer) with room to spare.

Always mild-mannered and a bit reserved, Bill had a secret need for speed. Before he started racing sailboats, he was a water skier with a fascination for fast powerboats. If you ever had a ride in his 1961, 16-foot fiberglass Anthony with the 115 Mercury engine hanging on the transom, you know what I mean.

Around 1980, Bill took the next logical step for someone who always needed to go a bit faster when he purchased Bob Gilson's E-boat, Ring Dang Doo. He won a few trophies with that boat and around 1993, Wildthing, another E-boat of note, came along. He campaigned E-boats until 2012, for 32 years, if my math is correct. A top-notch sailor, you'll find his name on just about all of our E-boat trophies and several of our specialty trophies as well. And when he joined Doug Tormey's A-boat syndicate, Bill's Chrysler New Yorker, a veritable land yacht itself, frequently served as the official tow vehicle.

Though we might not have noticed, Bill touched each and every member of our club in one way or another. Around 1990, a wise member of the board thought that since Bill had been involved with computers since the days when mainframes had less computing power than your smart phone, that he might know a thing or two about numbers. He did. Actually, long before you could download a scoring system off the Internet, Bill created one that calculated handicaps not just for the keelboats but also for all of our specialty handicap races. Then, in the days before email and websites, he faxed or mailed results to anyone who subscribed to this weekly service. Bill also served as Commodore in 1981 and probably E-fleet captain at least once. He and Carolyn were membership chairs and directory editors, too.

A man with a big heart, his home was open to anyone at the park in a jam who needed help. If you had to find a part for an emergency repair, you could probably find it in Bill's compact but well-organized workshop, along with the tools to do it if you'd neglected to bring yours.

In 2006, when our good friend, PRO emeritus Bill Ward, needed help, Bill was there for him, running interference with various agencies and nursing homes for his care. Bill summoned our breakfast group to inventory and eventually sell a collection of a thousand-plus items from movie cameras to reamers.

Once I retired in 2006, he promptly invited me to join the Thursday morning breakfast group at Perkins on the east side. That's when I really got to know Bill. We took field trips to car shows, boat shows, and, of course, to Neenah to visit Bill Ward. Though I thought I knew how to do things on a spreadsheet, he taught me how to split, format, splice, dice, condense, and reorder cells full of data in ways that I never knew possible. That's when I started calling him the "Wizard of Excel."

The Wizard has now "crossed the bar" on his way to join so many other sailors at the big regatta in the sky, where you're always sailing on the lifted tack under a perfect sky. Fortunately, we'll all have great memories of a life well spent with him in the company of good friends, boats, cars, and a basement full of tools and stories.