TICONDEROGA — Passing away peacefully in his sleep after a long bout with illness, William H. 'Bill Catlin, died in Vero Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, June 11, 2003.
Born in Orwell, Vt., on Aug. 25, 1913, Bill was the oldest member of a family that, prior to his death, spanned six living generations. Interested in everything from mechanics and machinery to history, sports and politics, Bill wrote in a daily journal every day for the last 20 years of his life. Notes on the demise of farms in the local area as well as comments on the economy, the weather and mankind in general filled the pages of his log books. Keenly interested in local history, Bill knew the name of every farmer living in the Ticonderoga area between 1950 and the present day. Summer visitors often stopped at his farm supply store to ask questions about local people and places, and he never disappointed them or left them without a story.
Bill left Ti immediately after graduating from the local high school to begin a career working with construction equipment in the New York City area. Able to operate and repair, practically anything that had wheels or tracks, Bill was drafted at age 30 and sent as a combat engineer to the European Theater where skills like his were desperately needed in World War II. He was a sergeant in General Patton's highly mechanized Third Army and his battlefield experiences had a profound effect on him. Many a time he reminded his children of how lucky they were to have shoes on their feet and bread on their plates.
At the close of the war, Bill was recruited by an oil company to put his skills to work in Texas. The hot dry plains of Texas, however, were no match for his inborn love of the Adirondacks. With his wife, Ann, and his two children, Patti and Lee, he returned to the East to resume work as an operating engine during the post-war boom in highway construction in New York. In 1950, wanting his family to grow up in the rural environment he had known as a child, he returned to Ti to run the Catlin family farm. By 1957 he had established a bulk grain and farm supply business and enlarged his family by one more child, Dan Edward. After a fire destroyed the original historic store site with its grain elevators and railroad siding access, Bill reopened his business at its current location on Wicker Street.
A firm believer in giving back to the community, Bill was an active and involved member of several local boards and organizations. For more than 15 years he served as a member of the School District Board of Trustees, giving each of his children their diplomas and attending annual State School Board meetings as well as monthly local ones. He served as the vice-president and then president of the Valley View Cemetery Association for 25 years. He was a 50 year member of the Mt. Defiance Lodge 794 F. & A.M., as well as a member of the Oriental Temple of Shriners.
One of his favorite projects was the building of the new middle school on Alexandria Avenue. As the chairman of the building and grounds committee, Bill was responsible for overseeing everything from site development and architecture to access roads and playing fields. He never missed an opportunity to drive past the school and point it out to visiting family and friends. At the time of his death, Bill was also the longest tenured male member of the Ticonderoga Methodist Church, a fact of which he was most proud.
An avid Dodgers fan, Bill had wintered over in Vero Beach, Fla., for more than 20 years. He held season tickets for himself and his family for Dodger Spring Training and seldom missed a game. In spite of his gradually failing health he had planned to return to Ticonderoga to celebrate his 90th year operating heavy equipment on his farm. Running a bulldozer was probably his favorite occupation. Always willing to share his opinion or just pass the time of day, Bill's office at his store, just like his garage at Vero Beach, was often filled with people stopping by to talk about anything from present day politics to the good old days. As one of his friends said, You may not agree with Bill, but you are never in doubt about where he stands. Although his physical health was declining, he was blessed with a clear, sharp wit and mind to the very end.
Bill is survived by his wife, Phyllis Lynn; his daughter and son-in-law, Patti Catlin Hughes and Bill Hughes of Los Gatos, Calif.; his son and daughter-in-law, Lee and Lynda Catlin; and son, Dan Catlin of Ticonderoga.
Interment will be at Valley View Cemetery in South Ticonderoga on June 16, 2003, at the family plot.