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William “Bill” Chappell McConnell

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 26th, 2013

MCCONNELL—William “Bill” Chappell McConnell, 85, of Florence, passed away March 20, 2013, surrounded by family.

Bill was born in Portland, Ore., April 20, 1927, to Pearl and Mulford McConnell.

Most of his childhood was spent in Vancouver, Wash., camping, backpacking, mountain climbing and fishing with his family, and scouting. In 1941, he earned his Eagle Scout badge.

In 1944, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served three years in the Pacific and Alaska. He was awarded four medals, including two Purple Hearts. Upon discharge, he worked in the timber industry while attending Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash.

It was during his junior year there that he met his future wife, Marianne Kelly. After he graduattted with a bachelor’s degree in natural history, Bill and Marianne were married.

Bill began his lengthy teaching career in Kettle Falls, Wash., teaching science and math and coaching basketball and football. He and Marianne then moved to Vancouver, Wash., where he served as an elementary school principal, and where their first son, Jon, was born.

In 1959, Bill applied for and received a Fulbright Grant to teach in Chile. He took his family to South America, where he taught Chilean educators laboratory technology, and established a new study program in molecular biology.

In 1961, twins Kimberly and Robert were born. They all returned to the United States that same year, where Bill returned to public school teaching in San Anselmo, Calif.

In 1969, he earned a master’s degree in marine biology from Humboldt State University. He developed research materials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service in Albany, Calif., and started the first marine biology program in the San Francisco Bay area at Redwood High School, teaching advanced science students in their senior year.

For 23 years, he continued teaching for the Tamalpais Union School District and marine environmental technology at Marin Community College, finally retiring from public school teaching in 1988.

After the death of his wife, Marianne, in 1989, Bill moved to Florence, where his brother Jim, and later his father, lived.

Bill became involved teaching Elderhostel (Road Scholar) programs in Oregon and Washington and sang in the Presbyterian Church choir.

Bill met Jeanne Carter, the love of his later life, at the Siuslaw Nursing Center where his father lived and she was care manager.

They discovered their mutual love of music and nature and were married in 1992. They both sang in the Presbyterian Church choir and were among the first to join the Florence Community Chorus.

Bill’s deep bass voice thrilled many. He and Jeanne also enjoyed traveling and birding. He volunteered his time with various organizations including Food Share, the Free Lunch Program, the U.S. Forest Service at Cape Perpetua, and Kiwanis.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Marianne; his brother Jim; sister-in-law Lois; and his youngest son, Robert.

He is survived by his wife Jeanne; daughter Kimberly; son Jon; step-children Janet (Paul), Michael (Laurie), and David (Debbie), as well as nine grandchildren.

A celebration of Bill’s life will be held on March 28, at 2 p.m., at the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw.

Contributions may be made to Food Share or Kiwanis.

At Bill’s request, private cremational rites were held through Burns’s Riverside Chapel Florence Funeral Home, which was in charge of arrangements.

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