Dr. Bill Servais

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• In People,

The sailing master, Bill Servais, has passed on. He went too young, only 68, but perhaps in the way he would have preferred - a quick end. Lord knows if he had ended up in a nursing home we would have felt sympathy for his nurse. He would not have enjoyed that either.

Bill was born August 21, 1942 and died of a heart attack in Mexico, January 25, 2011. He was sailing with his uncle, Dick Randolph, and they were in a harbor near Mazatlan. Bill had gone ashore to use a computer and was found slumped over it. Bill was my brother.

As a kid he wanted a job that allowed him to fish and hunt when he wanted to. He became a dentist so he could move to some perfect town and have a good income. Bellingham offered great fishing along with sailing and seafood, and Bill was quick to master all three. He loved sailing the islands of the Pacific Northwest, catching or gathering seafood and cooking up incredible meals on small sailboats. He could be hard on those sailing with him but none questioned his skills and his knowledge of the islands. It was more fun to be on another boat sailing the islands with Bill on his.

And, in truth, he enjoyed single handing a sailboat. He could sail into the Bellingham harbor in any wind or breeze, tacking and jibing between the docks and put his loved San Juan 24 sailboat into its slip - a slip that was just outside the windows of the Yacht Club bar, where other sailors would put down nickels on the table betting whether or not Bill would screw up or smoothly dock his boat. He never missed. And he enjoyed sauntering into the Club a few minutes later as if he had done nothing at all.

Bill and Corrinne married in 1967 and had two kids, Mike and Nicola. They both now work for tech companies in Seattle. Corrine still lives in Bellingham. After Bill sold his Fairhaven dentistry practice in 1995, he bought the 48 foot ocean cruiser, Migrant, from Dick Johnson. He sailed the Pacific Ocean in her. He embarked on new adventures, working as a dentist in American Samoa and as the only dentist in Antarctica for three winters in a row. He set the record for McMurdo Sound in that no dentist had ever lasted more than two winters. Bill worked at other public health dental clinics over the past 10 years.

He spent summers in his home town of Green Bay and his adopted town of Bellingham, and his winters in Mexican sailing waters. He was a sailor of great skill. He lived a very full life and had many ventures and adventures that the rest of us only dream of having. He brought his unique energy and focus to all that he did, from dentistry to sailing to preparing freshly gathered oysters. He is gone now and we are left with many memories of him in action, doing things in his own way.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Larry Horowitz

Jan 26, 2011

John, Our deepest sympathies for you and for Bill’s family.

“Whatever soothes your spirit, comforts your soul, and brings you peace, that’s what you’re wished at this time.”

Best,
Larry & Mandy Horowitz

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John Servais

Jan 26, 2011

Larry - thank you.  And to others who knew Bill - feel free to write something about Bill here rather than a note of sympathy.  I’m still in a daze and did not think of what comments people might put here.  He was a character, as those who knew him can attest.

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Doug Starcher

Jan 27, 2011

John, I only met Bill a few times but, have a lot of friends that knew him. I have no idea how you must feel as, we haven’t
lost any siblings yet.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Doug

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Dick Conoboy

Jan 27, 2011

Sorry I never got to meet him.  My condolences.

Dick

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Riley Sweeney

Jan 27, 2011

You have my thoughts and prayers, John.

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Rick Anderson

Jan 28, 2011

John,
When I remember Bill it will be of a man who could say much with few words.  I can smell the “fragrance” of his pipe wafting across the water whenever sailing near him.  Most of all, he did it his way.  Rest assured he sails on….
Rick

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John Lesow

Jan 28, 2011

Extending my prayers and condolences to you and your family
John Lesow

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Gene Knutson

Jan 28, 2011

John:

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
I never met Bill but i know his brother he must have
been a great man.

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NWCitizen Management

Jan 28, 2011

Dave Eastman, who left Bellingham in the early 1980s, sailed with Bill.  He posted this story, which local sailors will enjoy.  It is true Bill.  However, while Dave felt that Bill was testing him, I think it more in character that Bill had no idea he was.  He was just focused on the boat.  Afterwards, in the yacht club, he probably assessed it all and decided he had finally gotten to a Dave.  The telling thing for me is Bill’s reply of “Oh….”  A good read. 

Bellingham Bay can be fun.

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Dave Eastman

Jan 28, 2011

My bestest buddy from my former days in Bellingham has passed on all all too early.  After all his adventures, I thought Bill Servais could survive anything.  I didn’t think he could die.One of his early achievements was in summiting City Hall, where after a spell, the administration awarded him with the ownership of his SJ 24, Gwahir, however indirect in a fashion.  My boat was hull #10 and his was #9.  There were often comments offered that the difference in the two sailboats was monumental in terms of upkeep and polish.
He always taught me something new with this remarkable little sailboat, and favored me many times with his friendship.
There will be no way to fill the vacuum his life’s passing is going to create.  I hurt….
Dave Eastman, “Flight”, LCO

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NWCitizen Management

Jan 28, 2011

What Dave is so politely referring to is Bill’s purchase of his sailboat from the funds the city of Bellingham paid him. 

In October 1971, Bill and I were showing a friend how we practice climbed buildings for mountain climbing.  We were doing the fine sandstone outside the Fairhaven Tavern - the Waldron building.  The police would hide their car in shadows and watch the Fairhaven Tav nightly - a harassment thing.  We knew there were there, but climbing the side of a building is not a crime.  We were arrested and spent the night in the County jail.  The city then took us to court.  Judge Kurtz dismissed the charges after hearing our attorney John Anderson’s plea.  Kurtz also tongue lashed the police and city attorney.  I let the matter drop, but Bill sued for false arrest.  He won what was at that time the 5th largest false arrest suite in the history of the US.  With the proceeds he bought his sailboat. 

The police stated they arrested us because what we were doing was “unnatural”.  They cited the city law that forbade sleeping on streets, frequenting outhouses, and other things.  It was the classic unconstitutional street sweeper law.  Shortly after paying Bill his money the city council abolished the stupid law.  We had the building owner at the trial ready to testify that he had just hired Bill and I as gargoyles.  His testimony was not needed. 

The Bellingham Herald helped Bill by headlining our arrest and calling Bill the “human fly”.  Seems the police took special care to show the arrest report to the Herald.  When the trial threw out the charges, the Herald paid it no attention and the police also ignored informing the reporter. 

The police knew all the drug deals were going down at the Lockspot tavern, just a couple blocks away.  But they paid off the police and were left alone.  The Fairhaven Tav was always clean with no drugs.  Emily kept a sharp eye out and all knew she would not let them in ever again if they dealt.

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Dave Eastman

Jan 28, 2011

thanks, I do appreciate that accurate revision of history.  I especially always enjoyed John Anderson’s cross examination of the cop and “Dr. Servais using some pornographic language” but you are part of a cultural history of what BHM and Fairhaveen were and I would like to think we fixed some of that up while I worked in the Hertz administration. Sorry Burns is gone.

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Dee Henderson

Jan 28, 2011

John and family,
We are so sorry to read about Bill.  I worked for Bill
I guess for about 8 or 9 years.  Some great stories there
good and bad.  Of course he introduced me to sailing as well
as introducing me to my husband, Michael.  We moved to
Victoria, BC.  Bill and I stayed in contact all these years and
and when I would email him for an update he would respond
with about 3 sentences summing up his whole time in Mexico.
We did keep getting plenty of junk mail which indicated to
us he was still alive.  We are going to miss those junky
emails. Bill lived his life his way to the fullest.

Once again we are thinking of you, Mike and Nik.
Sincerely,
Dee and Mike Henderson

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Todd Granger

Jan 29, 2011

And J.S. Kurtz?

Sailing master, shown best in Federated Publications v. J.S. Kurtz.

In relation to todays local model, justice in the klogged kangaroo kourt, with the cabin boy judges.

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Mark Flanders

Feb 05, 2011

All the best John.

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John Servais

Mar 14, 2011

This coming Sunday, March 20, at 2 pm, there will be a memorial for Bill at the Squalicum Yacht Club on the Bellingham waterfront.  It is being put on by the Corinthian Yacht Club.  I have added the photo today. 

Below is the obituary for Bill that will appear in this Sunday’s Bellingham Herald.  It is a revision of the personal reflection that I posted Jan 26.  This official obit is toned down and includes some technical corrections.  Mike and Nicola, Bill’s son and daughter, asked that I expand on my original and submit it as the obit.  I wrote the first on the evening Bill died as an effort to come to grips with my own thoughts and feelings.  It is comforting to me that others like it.

Bill and I were the oldest of nine children.  We grew up together.  We learned to sail together.  We did a lot together as close brothers do.  In high school we started to go our separate ways.  In 1970, Bill came out to join me in Bellingham, the town I had chosen to live in.  He took to this community and area with a passion.  All his local friends have many stories and I look forward to hearing some at the memorial next Sunday. 

———-

The sailing master, Dr. Bill Servais, has passed on.? He went too young, only 68, but perhaps in the way he would have preferred - a quick end.  Bill was born August 21, 1942 and died of a heart attack in Mexico, January 25, 2011.? He was sailing with his uncle, Dick Randolph, and they were in a harbor near Mazatlan.?
He was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  As a kid he wanted a job that allowed him to fish and hunt when he wanted to.? He became a dentist so he could move to some perfect town and have a good income.? After serving as a dentist in the Army, he moved to Bellingham in 1970.  Bellingham offered great fishing along with sailing and seafood, and Bill was quick to master all three.? He loved sailing the islands of the Pacific Northwest, catching or gathering seafood and cooking up incredible meals on small sailboats.

Bill also enjoyed single handing his sailboat.? He could sail into the Bellingham harbor in any wind or breeze, tacking and jibing between the docks and put his loved San Juan 24 sailboat into its slip - a slip that was just outside the windows of the Yacht Club bar, where other sailors would bet whether or not Bill would screw up or smoothly dock his boat.? He never missed.? And he enjoyed sauntering into the Club a few minutes later as if he had done nothing at all. ?In the early 1980s he helped found the Corinthian Yacht Club in Bellingham and was its first Commodore.
?
Bill and Corrinne married in 1967 and had two children, Mike and Nicola.? Both of his children are now married and live near Seattle.?Mike and wife Amie have daughters Teagan and Arden.  Nicola and husband Tim Weiss have a daughter Cecilia.  Corrinne still lives in Bellingham.? In 1991 Bill bought the 42 foot steel junk rigged ocean cruiser ‘Migrant’ from Dick Johnson.  In 1994 he sold his Fairhaven dental practice and set out sailing the Pacific Ocean.? Over the years he also embarked on other adventures, working as a dentist in American Samoa, as the dentist in Antarctica for four winters, plus other public health dental clinics in Arizona and on the Lummi Indian Reservation.

He is also survived by his brother John in Bellingham, sister Mary in Seattle, siblings Jenny, Tina, Jim, Maggie, Richard and Helen in Wisconsin, and many nieces and nephews.  His parents preceded him in death.
?
Bill was a sailor of great skill.? He would want to be remembered for that.  He lived a very full life and had many ventures and adventures that the rest of us only dream of having.? He brought his unique energy and focus to all that he did, from dentistry to sailing to preparing freshly gathered oysters.? He is gone now and we are left with memories of him in action, doing things in his own way. ?

A memorial service will be held today, Sunday, March 20, 2 pm, by the Corinthian Yacht Club, at the Squalicum Yacht Club facility on the Bellingham Waterfront.  All Bill’s friends are welcome.

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Jeffrey Margolis

Mar 19, 2011

Sincerest regards to John and the extended Servais Family on the loss of Bill.  Bill was a fine dentist and guided and cared for our family. He will always remain a warm memory for us.  Our regrets for being unable to attend the memorial service for at that very same hour I am singing in a devout concert.  I’ll keep a special place in my heart at that common hour and wish for a world of calm seas.
Yours very truly,
Jeff Margolis

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