Sells’ character, compassion will live on

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By Dale Osborn  

I had the honor of attending the memorial service for William “Bill” Sells of Evergreen. It was at Rockland Community Church, and the venue was packed, indicating the impact Bill had on many people.

I first met Bill almost 20 years ago at a gathering arranged by a philanthropically oriented group to which our wives belonged. Bill said that he and his wife, Sue, were retired from Johns Manville, without adding that he was one of the top executives in the corporation. Also a Marine veteran, he forgot to add that he had flown jet fighters off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. For most people I have known, these two accomplishments would sort of be in the forefront of describing who they are — not for Bill. In my travels, I have had the pleasure of meeting presidents of countries including the USA, celebrities of Hollywood and politicians at all levels of government. Humility is not their strong suit, but Bill exhibited great humility and avoided self-focus even though he was extraordinary.  

I enjoyed my few private conversations with Bill very much. Two such conversations I recall as if they happened yesterday.  The first was concerning the Jefferson County Action Center. He became quite emotional when discussing the plight of the people needing its services, particularly the children. He was shocked that such hardship existed in Jefferson County, one of the most affluent in Colorado. Bill became quite active in the Action Center and recruited some of us for financial help. This activity was never about Bill, but about those in need.

The second conversation was about grandchildren. My wife and I have been blessed with three grandsons ages 4 and under. At breakfast one morning, meeting by accident, I asked Bill and Sue when their grandchildren became tired of the old folks and moved on to other relationships. Their answer was quite telling: “NEVER.” “How do you stay relevant to these children?” I asked. “Be involved in their lives” Bill said. “Go to every event.” We have heeded that advice.

At the service, two of the grandsons spoke of their relationships with Bill and Sue and shared their feelings about their grandfather. The message was very clear; Bill and Sue worked hard, joyfully, at being involved within the lives of their family as a whole and with each member individually. Further, as these fine boys spoke, the quality of character that I had come to know of Bill showed through glowingly. “Just do the right thing.”

My wife and I have been married about 45 years. During that time I have come to believe that every man needs a good woman who is also a partner and friend to keep him grounded. Sue and Bill were married for 57 years, and their relationship is one to which my wife and I aspire. Clearly Sue was a grounding influence.

Bill Sells: God-fearing, self-made, senior executive of a Fortune 500 company, Marine veteran, humble, husband, father, grandfather, philanthropist, teacher, example of integrity and character, and above all a Very Good Man. Bill is no longer with us, and he will be missed; but his influence and character continue within his children and grandchildren.