Chapter Eternal: William D. Last, Idaho ’47

8 April

Just before midnight on Holy Thursday, Bill Last, Idaho ’47, finished his journey in this world after several years of struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. So now, with the Easter “Alleluias” still ringing in our ears, we remember a man who was a husband, father, coach, teacher, Navy man, favorite Uncle, Papa, Culligan man, Deacon and friend to many.

Born in Oshkosh, Wis., on September 20, 1924, he was a son to William A. Last and Irene M. Last. Bill had great childhood memories of swimming in Lake Winnebago, ice skating and playing hockey, enjoying baseball and football, both in school and on teams, one sponsored by the family milk business. He worked delivering milk, (“a porch climber”), as an “ice man” and a “coal man,” and his favorite job was dipping ice cream (which explains his life-long love of ice cream).

Following graduation from Oshkosh High School, he played football at Oshkosh State Teacher’s College in the fall of 1942, and then he was inducted into the Navy. Boot camp was at Great Lakes Training Station, where he was picked as a member of the rowing crew, so he spent most of his time training on Lake Michigan with his Cutter team for their many competitions. He said he was lucky because he never had to do KP duty. He then was sent to San Pedro to Sonar school, where he became a “ping jockey” and was assigned to a small escort ship which carried on anti-submarine warfare.

Bill spent 2 years in the South Pacific, where his ship was part of many of the landing operations for the various island battles. He told his children “I went to the Navy to see the world, and what did I see? I saw the sea!” In the summer of 1945, he was accepted into officers training school and was assigned to the V 12 Navy program at the University of Idaho. En route to Moscow, he spent a night in Spokane on V. J. Day!!!

While studying at the University, he and several other Navy veterans were added to the Vandal football team. So that may have helped turn this loyal mid-westerner into a lifelong Idahoan. He chose to leave the Navy in the spring, but in the fall he returned to Moscow, hitchhiking back and forth several times. He played football for two more years, and was part of the 1947 team that beat Stanford, at Stanford. He was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the “I” club. He graduated in 1950 with a bachelor of science in physical education and education.

He accepted a teaching job in Payette and made frequent trips to Filer, Idaho, to visit Jacqueline Mitchell, whom he’d met while at Idaho. The relationship blossomed and a June wedding was planned, but in January, Bill received a letter from President Truman inviting him to help with the war in Korea. So they were married on March 25, 1951, on Easter Sunday, and when the school term ended, he again reported to the Navy.

Luck prevailed and, instead of being sent to the fleet with all the other sonar man, he was assigned to Portland, Ore., as a recruiter. While in Portland, the family began to grow with the addition of twins Mike and Mary. In June of 1952, they returned to Idaho and he worked for Culligan in Idaho Falls. A year later, Bill got an opportunity start his own Culligan business in Jerome, thanks to Uncle By Ellsworth. They bought a house and were living in Jerome in time to welcome daughter Kathy into the family. She was followed in the next few years by Nancy, Jane, Becky and Vic, so this man who grew up with five brothers found himself surrounded by daughters and a son!!! He always considered this another lucky break!!!

Besides building the Culligan business until it included all the north side counties, Bill found time to referee football and basketball, coach a Little League team, be an active Jaycee, and later a member of the Rotary. He was president for the St. Benedict’s foundation, a team leader for a Rotary group who went on exchange to Australia and was honored for Lifetime Achievement by the Jerome Chamber.

He was always active at St. Jerome’s, and in the late ‘60s became active in the Cursillo movement, a renewal retreat experience. He promoted Cursillo and was a team member and leader for many years. In 1981, he was ordained as a Permanent Deacon of the Catholic Church and taught both youth and adult groups, visited the shut-ins and lonely, and helped with Sunday prayer and praise at Creekside Care Center.

He always loved to sing, and family trips in the car required song sheets so everyone could learn the words to all his favorites, including the University of Idaho fight song. He was part of several productions of the North Side Players, most notable being his role as the Mayor in “Music Man,” where he lamented about the “trouble right here in river city.” He sang in the church choir for many years, and loved being asked to lead the singing at Rotary. In his weeks at Creekside Care Center, he sang to the girls and also visitors, and especially with Becky and other family members.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his daughter Mary; his grandson Christopher; and his brothers Bob, Art, Ed, and Dave.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jackie; his son, Michael (Tish) Last, daughters Kathy (Vern) Pound, Nancy (Dan) Krahn, Jane (Ramon) Zugazaga, Becky (Rod) Mink and Vic (Bill) McCarthy; 16 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and his brother Jim.

Donations may be made to any charity you choose, or the University of Idaho Foundation, St. Jerome’s Parish, Jerome, or the Monastery of the Ascension, Jerome.

A prayer vigil will be held at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 11, 2010, the Mass of Resurrection will be offered at 11 a.m. on Monday. Final rites will be at 3 p.m. at the Monastery of the Ascension.

The Farnsworth Funeral Home, 1343 S. Lincoln, Jerome, Ind., is in charge of the arrangements.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Brother Last’s family, friends, and brothers. Love and Respect.

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