Willard “Bill” William Remmers II

Willard “Bill” William Remmers II was born in Chicago on December 28th, 1939, to Willard William Remmers and Mabel Johnine Ray Remmers. He died on June 16, 2013, after a 20-year struggle with prostate cancer. He died peacefully in his home surrounded by his family and friends. He was preceded in death by mother, Mabel, his father, Willard, and by his step-mother, Margaret G. Remmers. He leaves his wife, Ruth Bernadine Heuertz Remmers, and daughter, Juliet Inez Remmers.
Bill spent his early years in Marion, Kansas, with his grandmother Inez Ellis Ray, his uncle and aunt, Rusty and Mary Longhofer, and in Corona del Mar, California, with his uncle and aunt, James and Hazel May Ray. Bill’s mother, Mabel, and Bill moved to Topeka during his grade school years where Mabel became known for her work at the Menninger Foundation and in Topeka Civic Theatre. He continued his education with a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics at Washburn University in1963. Bill earned an M.S. in Mathematics at the University of Kansas in 1966 and later a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at KU in 1985 under Professor Howard Rosenfeld.
He did a variety of work, including research, statistical analysis, modeling, and artificial intelligence for the KU departments of geology, social psychology, anthropology, biochemistry, and human development. He taught math at Donnelly College in Kansas City and psychology and computer science at KU. He worked as a mathematician on rocket trajectories and laser theory for Aeroneutronics in Newport Beach, California, and as a researcher and computer network manager for the U.S. Parole Commission in Washington D.C. He also taught chess, guitar making, astronomy, sailing, telescope making, and ceramics.
Bill’s relationship with Ruth, the love of his live, began in 1978. They went to parties, danced, canoed, and cooked. For two consecutive years in 1985 and 1986, he and Ruth won Best in Class and Best in Show for tofu cooking contests sponsored by Central Soy with their Tofu Gumbo and Tofu Egg Rolls. They married September 1, 1990. Their daughter Juliet was born August 18, 1991. Bill was a loving husband and took an active role in raising Juliet. He carried her everywhere in a front sling as a baby, later taking her to dance and music lessons, and acquainting her with the great minds of Lawrence’s coffee shops. Bill was also an avid chess player, and in 1966 was a 5-state collegiate champion. He once beat a Dutch Grand Master in 1970 in Amsterdam, and played Bobby Fischer in 1963 at KU. Mr. Fischer complimented him on his opening but advised that Bill did not have “the killer instinct.”
Bill loved books. His house was filled with them. He especially liked Euclid’s “Elements,” Linus Pauling’s “The Nature of the Chemical Bond”; “One Two Three…Infinity,” a physics book by George Gamow. He enjoyed various science fiction writers like Azimov and Simak. In grade school, he read, “The Boys Guide to Chemistry”, which included chapters on pyrotechnics and explosives. In high school, when he should have been doing homework, he read many volumes on religions of the world. Together, his family read the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings.
Bill affected many people’s lives with his friendship, generosity, analytical skills, inventiveness, and puns. He was a great friend to many and made people feel special because of his genuine interest in their lives. He could not walk a block without talking to someone he knew. He was a great storyteller. Bill was completely committed to his friends and family, supporting them enthusiastically in their endeavors.
His own interests included but were not limited to mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, music, solar energy, anthropology (which he called “anthro-apology”), and bicycles. His encyclopedic mind enabled him to discuss a huge number of topics in-depth with everyone he knew or met. He was never content to accept the status quo of scientific or social ideas, but thought critically and creatively about topics.
He was passionate about his avocational interests. When he was a boy living in Marion, Kansas, his grandmother, Inez, nurtured what would become a lifelong interest in astronomy when she gave eight-year-old Bill a college textbook on astronomy, which he memorized. He enjoyed making telescopes and observing the night sky, and speculating and offering opinions on scientific discoveries. Inez gave him a subscription to Scientific American which he continued taking the rest of his life.
He was a talented and creative potter. During a ceramics course at Washburn University, he developed the first simple method to obtain copper red glaze in this part of the world. Later in life, he spent hours throwing pots at the Lawrence Arts Center. One of his favorite techniques was “Raku,” which gave his pottery a metallic luster. His artistic interests also included writing poetry, making jewelry, and filmmaking.
He enjoyed art and music. From 1972-1977 he made guitars for friends. He later helped construct an electric cello made from the wood of a Kansas Osage Orange tree. He loved listening to his wife sing and play piano, and found joy in Juliet’s violin playing and her passion for dance. He often mentioned his extreme good fortune in having a daughter of Juliet’s accomplishments and personality.
Bill participated in clinical trials over several years and used his scientific background to actively do laboratory and literary research on prostate cancer in hopes of helping himself and others who suffer from this devastating disease. In Bill’s honor, please give generously to support patients in need to the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Association-Oncology Department, 325 Maine St., Lawrence, KS 66044.
Bill absolutely loved his family and wide circle of friends. The thought of not continuing to be with the ones he loved was for him more painful than the suffering he endured from his prolonged illness. He would wish to have those who felt this same joy of living gather in his memory. In this spirit, a celebration of Bill’s life will be held at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire, at noon on Saturday, June 29th. Please join us.