Charles William (Bill) Whetham

("Aloha, Joe" composed in 1988 and performed by Bill in January 2012 on the electric piano. Recorded by Mark Bowman)

billBill was born in 1949 and was raised with his two sisters in Needham, Massachusetts.  His early exposure to live music through his father, a professional pianist, church organist and choir director, made a profound impression on him.  Bill later discovered jazz with Dave Brubeck’s album, “Take Five,” at age 16.  He promptly purchased his first saxophone, which was held together by rubber bands and band-aids, for $1.00.  Thus began a lifelong passion.

Bill married his high school sweetheart, Dianne, in 1969.  He was awarded a full scholarship to Washington and Lee University, where he studied literature, history and anthropology.  Despite some family pressure to pursue a law degree, he fled  suburbia (and the mainland) with his young wife, in search of a simpler, slower lifestyle.  He was practical to a fault, but a hopeless romantic at heart. 

In 1972, with the hope of expatriating to New Zealand, the pair reconnected with family on the Big Island of Hawaii, where they remained for 15 years.  Surrounded by friends and family, they created a beautiful homestead, had two children and experimented with commercial farming.  Simultaneously, Bill worked as both a mill worker and a power plant operator at a sugar plantation, where he was commonly addressed as “Whiteman” (the only Caucasian among 300 employees), rather than Whetham.  Taking any opportunity to devour the works of his favorite authors (Chekov, Nabokov, Joyce), he did so on the roof of the power plant on company time.

In 1986, nostalgic for a long, cold winter, the Whethams returned to New England.  Remembering Chebeague as a beautiful island he had visited in his youth, Bill responded to an advertisement in the rental section of the Portland paper.  The family fell in love with the island, and even after moving off in 1991, sustained strong ties to this amazing community.  Bill loved this island as much as his Hawaiian homestead!    

 Bill was an ear musician who taught himself to read, consequently writing over twenty compositions of his own.  He cultivated his musical talent throughout his life, taking both saxophone and piano lessons… and repeatedly embarrassing his children in front of their friends with his involuntary scatting.  In recent years, he expressed a deep desire to hear his music performed by professional musicians.

It seems impossible to express everything that Bill embodied, but we know that he will be remembered as a gentle, kind, generous, funny, wise, modest, intelligent, honest father, husband, brother, son, friend and mentor.  Of his many passions, his relationships, especially the deep bonds he formed with Erin and Hank, were what he cherished most.  We will love and miss you always Bill.

Message from the Family

Dear  friends,

Thank you for loving Bill and for continuing to share your love with us during this difficult time.  Bill remains with us all in spirit and we are comforted by your expressions of devotion to the three of us through your incredible notes, your passing words and every smile.  The amazing contributions of food, music, transportation and lodging, not to mention the use of the beautiful barn in preparation for Bill’s celebration would have made him blush!  We remain humbled by your outpouring of support.  Mahalo.

Dianne, Erin and Hank 

Celebration of Bill Whetham's Life
September 28, 2012

For those of you who missed Bill's Celebration of Life or were out of hearing range during the event.

2 "Northern Lights" written by Bill Whetham played by Herb Maine
7 "Aloha, Joe" (Recording of a song written in 1988 and played by Bill Whetham in 2012)
9 "Alone Together" performed by Herb, Brent and Ken
10 "Blue Umbrella" (John Prine song) sung by Mark Bowman
11 "Daffodil" written by Bill Whetham in 1991and played by Herb, Brent and Ken
12 "Bird in Hand" written by Bill Whetham and played by Herb, Brent and Ken
13 "Aloha, Joe" written by Bill Whetham in 1988 and played by Herb, Brent and Ken

(Service recorded by Mark Bowman)

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Bill and Dianne