Valley Lives - Bill Pawley

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the May 16, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Fun-loving former teacher 'could talk to a post'

by Trevor Greenway

Bill Pawley was the type of guy you just don't forget. Those who knew the Chelsea father, husband, teacher, and builder would agree that he made an impact on their lives one way or another.

From teaching his oldest daughter's high-school boyfriends how to use a power saw in shop class to fashioning bows and arrows out of refuse for his two grandkids at the cottage, Pawley was able to make friends with everyone.

Pawley died May 1 after suffering a massive stroke. He was 73.

"All of my ex-boyfriends and friends showed up at the funeral," said his daughter, Mandy, who was home for Mother's Day. She said that more than 300 people attended the funeral service, many of them her dad's former students. "They all just felt like they needed to come."

To Mandy and her sister, Kim, Bill was Dad - a man who could build or fix anything, a man who could scare all the bedtime monsters away and who cooked the best spaghetti sauce in the world. He was adventurous, ambitious, heroic, goofy and a bit kooky, at times. The girls never knew what he had in store for them on any given weekend growing up.

Valley Lives
Bill Pawley. Photo courtesy Cathy Pawley.

ven weekend growing up. "It was always an adventure with Dad," said Mandy, recalling the time he took them out shopping and came back with a donkey out of the blue.

For Kim, it was playing crib with her Pops or learning how to winterize her Chelsea cottage that has really stuck with her all of these years - not to mention all the unfinished projects that accent the walls of the family home.

"He was just always there for me," added Kim.

Bill became a mentor for the kids and their friends growing up. The home on Pawley Road became the hangout for the kids' teenage years, mostly because they weren't judged and their youth was embraced, not condemned. Bill could talk the most troubled kid into enjoying an afternoon on the river. It's just who he was.

"My dad could talk to a post," said Mandy.

And while the kids lost a father, a friend, a mentor and confidant, their mother lost her other half; her college sweetheart, her life partner.

Sitting on her Chelsea deck soaking up the Mother's Day sunshine with her two daughters, a glass of wine and a reporter jotting down notes, Cathy Pawley remembers the man she married over almost 47 years ago.

"I've lost my bridge partner," she said, remembering all of the card nights with friends over the years. She also lost her movie watching partner and her traveling partner who took her to New Zealand and through Europe.

The Pawleys met at Bishop's University in the 1960s and both became teachers with the Ottawa School Board, where Bill put in close to 30 years of teaching geography and shop. The two married, moved to Chelsea, built the first house on Pawley Road, had two kids and started living their life together. Being teachers, the Pawleys' were always free during the summer and the family would find themselves on canoe and camping trips or out to the cottage for a weekend getaway. The two became lifetime members of the Larrimac Golf Club and Cascades Club, which Bill helped build.

But it's really the stories that make Bill a legend in Chelsea. The former municipal councillor, one of the co-developers of Radapaw Ridge and builder of several homes throughout the Hills, has quirky tales trailing his time behind the wheel.

There's the time he rolled up to Bishop's University in his hot red Triumph Spitfire sports car with a dead deer in the passenger's seat, the deer's hooves pointing up into the air like a trophy. He had just shot the animal and was on the way to the butcher.

Drinking buddies won't soon forget the rides home they got from Bill in his funeral hearse, especially the night a cop watched a pile of seemingly lifeless bodies roll out of the car at 3 a.m.

"He said, 'It's OK, they're just drunk, help me get them back in,'" said Cathy, chuckling over the wacky incident.

Longtime friend Marilyn Liddiard remembers Bill as the community glue that held everyone together, the kind of guy you could count on to help you put your roof up or lend you any equipment you needed to get any job done - no matter what.

"Bill was one of the kindest men I have ever met," Liddiard said during a phone interview. "He will be missed."

There were many sides to the big, burly shop teacher who could be found anywhere from barreling down his homemade luge track at breakneck speed at staff parties or spending the evenings reading bedtime stories to his two grandkids, Mitchell and Alexandra, who called him "Poppi."

Eight-year-old Alexandra's heart-breaking eulogy sums up exactly what he meant to his little granddaughter:

"Poppi was very fun and I have lots of memories of him, like the time we went to Mexico. It was fun having him there, and I don't think it will ever be fun without him," she wrote. "I will miss him reading stories to me and the spaghetti he made was the best spaghetti I have ever tasted."

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