R.I.P. Dear Friend


I have been preoccupied of late and am having trouble focusing on the next topic, so I decided to go with the flow.  My oldest friend on Vashon, Bill Tobin, died on August 2.  In April of 1971, Bill, Leslie Creed, Rodney Sakrison, and I moved into a beautiful house above the Cove Motel in Beulah Park.  We called it the “Cove House.”

Rod died in ’05, Leslie in ’10 (I think), and now Bill.

I first met Bill in 1968 when we both were reporting for training for a Peace Corps program for Venezuela.  We were installed in apartments near Cal State East LA.  Bill happened to be my neighbor.  He loved music, and I had brought my guitar with me.  Bill didn’t play at that point, but he knew all the words to most songs of the day, and I could play most of the chords (this is way before the internet).  Rod was in the same program with us, and he was soon at our jam sessions as well with his guitar.

I didn’t see much of Bill or Rod in Venezuela because I was way out in the west, and they were in the east.  After about a year, Bill did come out to visit me and check out a nearby site to work in.  After that, I got the urge to take a trip east to see the rest of the country and to visit my friends.  While going through Caracas, I ran into Bill, and he informed me that he had decided to go back to the states and was leaving shortly.  I continued on my trip, visiting with Rod down on the Orinoco.  I told him that Bill went home.  Within a month or so of returning to my town, I decided to leave as well.  On my last trip to Caracas on my way home, I ran into Rod who had also decided to leave.

Within six months of coming home, I was in Seattle with Bill and Rod.  I was the only stranger as Bill and Rod had both grown up in West Seattle unbeknownst to each other.  At that point, I met a large group of Rod’s friends and some of Bill’s who are still friends today.  We rented a house in Eastlake and during that year met Leslie Creed.  Leslie had a little cabin on Sunset Beach on Colvos, which we visited a number of times.  At the end of the year in Seattle we moved into the Cove House on Vashon.  By that time, Rod and I had taught Bill how to play guitar.  After that year in Cove, we all moved to separate places on Vashon, but were tight friends for the rest of our lives.  Quite a few other friends moved to Vashon as well, and many are still here.

I have not mentioned yet that Bill was a lawyer.  He had passed the Washington Bar about the time that we moved to Vashon.  He was a state bureaucrat for a while, but I remember early on that he represented a young local who was accused of fire bombing the Vashon Courthouse.  I believe the courthouse was in the same space that Vashon Print and Design is now.  I don’t remember that a whole lot of damage was done.  Phil Schwarz was our judge at the time, and you could not find a nicer fellow.  Phil performed marriages for both me and my brother.  Anyway, it was not a case that Bill would win, but it was a sign that Bill was going to be a lawyer who would defend the rights of the underdogs of the world.  He was our Vashon attorney when we fought the ASARCO smelter.  It was Bill that came up with the “pollutants as trespass” argument that eventually won the day. He took up a partnership with David Cooper somewhere in these earlier days.

According to another lawyer friend, he began representing Native Americans who were getting busted for harvesting shellfish on private property.  The Nisqually Tribe eventually asked Bill to be their staff lawyer.  The shellfish cases led to a suit being brought by the associated tribes of Washington for shellfish treaty rights in the state.  Bill was the lead lawyer when the case came before the State Supreme Court.  He argued and won that case.  He also argued and won a case before three Supreme Court justices to overturn the conviction of Chief Sealth.  He continued to work for the Nisqually’s for about 30 years, just retiring about a year or two ago.

Bill was an audacious guy, both in court and in the social arena.  He and I were involved in many an outrageous stunt, none of which will I mention for fear of besmirching his reputation.  When Bill and I were together, we almost always played some music.  I am sure as hell going to miss having him around to provide the words to all the songs.
His friends are going to be telling stories about Bill at a gathering at Havurah on Sunday, August 25 at 1:30 pm.  Stop by and share a tale.

Memories or Corrections?