William L. Goerlich

I became friends with Bill in senior year. Bill was as generous in his friendship to me as he was taciturn, precise, and witty in conversation. Bill deeply loved his girlfriend, and in addition to his pre-med courses Bill seriously studied monographs from the Rosicrucians. (I’m not sure how many other classmates knew about Bill’s family’s devotion to Rosicrucianism.) Bill worked furiously to get into medical school and was not successful during our senior year. I don’t know whether he tried again after we graduated. Bill would have been a splendid healer. 

Bill was always ready for a stroll out of the Branford quad and off to some hamburger joint to quell late-night munchies. Bill’s deadpan and devastatingly funny jokes on these excursions consistently reduced me to laughter that stole my breath and gave me side-aches. The more his jokes disabled me, the more finely he tuned them. Bill would also have been a gifted comic. 

Our conversations came to an abrupt halt during the second semester of senior year when I added Bill to the short list of people to whom I came out. There was nothing mean about Bill’s rejection; it was an honest reflection of his ideals and standards. Although it hurt, I never resented it or him, nor did Bill ever convert his disapproval into unkind behavior toward me. Bill’s reaction was the first of many valuable lessons about the validity of viewpoints other than my own. 

After graduation I moved to Toronto to enroll in graduate school. A year later I wrote to Bill to say that I never meant to upset or insult him with my disclosure, and that I hoped he was well. Bill replied with typical economy; with no other comment, he sent an invitation to his wedding. Graduate student poverty prohibited my attendance, as it did any travel beyond the Toronto transit system’s endpoints. But Bill showed himself then, as always, a great man with a big heart. 

Todd Freter

Share your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.