William (Bill) Reynolds, 93, died Thursday, December 3rd, 2020 in San Angelo, Texas, where he had resided for the past twenty-seven years. A native Texan, Bill was born in 1927 on his parents’ farm in Cotulla, LaSalle County, Texas. Son of Charles and Rose (Buffington) Reynolds, he and his sister Rosemary came of age there, surrounded by family, friends, and his church community.
Bill graduated from Cotulla High School and enlisted in the United States Navy near the end of World War II. However, since he was still in basic training when the war ended, he never saw active military duty. Instead, he came home and attended the University of Texas at Austin, originally as a pre-med major. He quickly learned that pre-med was not his calling and switched to his first love, music. He excelled at this and decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in music as well.
It was at this time that he noticed a fellow music student in the Master’s Program named Janet Sanders. They began dating and were married one year later at Janet’s home church in Wintersville, Ohio. The couple returned to Austin, Texas, planning to build a life together there.
However, acting upon the advice of his professor, Bill decided to pursue his career in New York for six months. He soon landed roles with The City Center Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, Broadway shows, recordings, and commercial vocal work.
In 1951, the young couple took a break from their busy life, boarded an ocean liner, and bicycled across Europe. After this great adventure, Bill and Janet settled down in New York, where they resided for the next forty years. Their first child, Marilyn, was born in 1953. At the time, Bill was performing as a freelance tenor. In addition, he and Janet led tours of the East Coast for the Foreign Students Association, often bringing Marilyn along with them.
The couple purchased a home in Levittown, Long Island (NY) in 1955, and the next year their second child Margaret was born. Bill and Janet became the choir director and organist for the Levittown Community Church, positions they held for many years. During their tenure there, the choir sang masterworks as well as fully staged productions such as Amahl and the Night Visitors, many with an orchestra.
Their third child, Charlotte, was born in 1959. By this time, Bill had decided to become a public school music teacher and landed a teaching job in the Levittown Public Schools. For the next 25 years, he taught classes and directed choral groups there, staging musical theatre productions for the high school. Bill also became the director of the Babylon Chorale in Babylon, New York, a title he held for many years.
He chose to retire from teaching at the young age of 57 and returned to his first love, performing. He took acting classes, did community and regional theatre, and appeared in commercials, television programs, and movies for the next ten years.
In 1993, the couple returned to the land where they first met, Texas. “Retiring” to San Angelo (a concept Bill never quite understood), they spent ten happy years there until Janet’s passing in 2004. Afterward, he stayed in San Angelo, surrounded by friends and relatives, and created a full life for himself with community theatre, music, church activities, and visiting his out of state children and grandson. He also forged a close relationship with his companion, Marian O’Hara. Bill was a wonderful father. His children and grandson loved him dearly, remaining close with him to the end. He was also a deeply spiritual man and felt an affinity with the teachings of the Unity Church, Science of Mind, and writers such as Neale Donald Walsch.
Music was his first love, but he had many others. He delighted in the outdoors, hiking the Appalachian Trail and visiting many national parks during his lifetime. He also enjoyed sports and exercise. A former marathon runner, he and Marian walked almost every day in retirement. However, perhaps Bill’s greatest love was for other people. His warmth, humor, and kindness were infectious, and those around him responded in kind.
Bill was preceded in death by his beloved wife Janet, sister Rosemary Sluder, brother-in-law Howard Sluder, and son-in-law Roger Andrews. Surviving him are his three daughters, grandson Rory Andrews, son-in-law Walter Sargent, nephew Peter Sluder, his dear friend and companion Marian O’Hara, cousin Mike McAfee and his wife Jerre, and many other relatives.
A memorial service in San Angelo is planned for the summer or fall of 2021.