Yale University

In Memoriam

Bill Stage

On this page are the following writings:

Bill Stage
1964 graduation

Letter from Bill Drennan

May, 2000

The image of Charles Willard Stage is a fleeting piece of business. Dave Sherman, taking his cue from the freshman picture book, first called him Charlie. Charlie Bill and Dick Derby had gone to summer camp together, were somehow connected to George Gordon Davis, and his fellow Richmondite, Hansel Merrill Pasco, and they, freshman roomies, formed the nucleus of the mates who became the "Berkeley Eight" in '61 with the addition of Drennen, Griffis, Morrison, Cavanagh, (and sorta Charlie Brown, son of the ROTC commander on his way to West Point ― one of the first of our class to die in Vietnam.)

When he came to Yale Bill Stage did not drink, did not smoke, but was hell with the women. He had more beautiful girlfriends than any man from Cleveland deserves, and he paid them close attention. In fact he paid everybody close attention, no matter who they were with. He had a sense of humor and he could drive when others couldn't, so he was a favorite with the road-trippers, and there were some of those in the pre-female days at Yale.

Because his asthma left him sprawled, he dissed the football call all fall, until finally Drennen, Morrison, Griffis, and Davis made it irresistible, and he played for Coach Jablonski's end-gamers for two seasons. Although light for an end, he was quick and sure with hands and feet ― talents which later led to his domination of California Frisbee League on Stinson Beach.

A DKE and a regular with Saloman and Mettler on the road, Stage loved round ball with a passion. Under the likes of Shoemaker and "Bones" Bryant and Lynch and Kaminski, he never made the team, but he also never missed the opportunity for a pick-up game at the gym or on the street. His study habits appeared non-existent, just enough for the low B and nothing below. He majored in Economics and pleasant times, Bill Stage so easy going and helpful: what made him tick?

With Vietnam nipping at the heels of Class of '64 graduates, he moved to University of Michigan law school with Peter Truebner's help. His JD got him past draft age, and a job with a computer company kept him occupied for a few months. At one point he seemed to be ambitious to become a doctor, as his friend Billy had, but UMed pre-Bakke at Davis was suffering through affirmative action, so he never had the chance to be more than the minister he became.

Bill Stage was a helpful guy. He liked to help people. In fact so helpful was he that the Universal Life Church conferred an archbishopric on him after his 10th wedding ceremony. He had been introduced to the ministry when he showed up at roommate Drennen's wedding in his Jesus Chrysler with photographer Jill Krementz and was recruited to perform the nuptials. He never turned back. In silence he visited Stinson Beach in the fall of 1972, became a mystery man and a spiritual consultant and with the help of Osha Reader and Peter Bishop and of course Armand, he was a natural attraction.

When his esthetic eye stopped wandering it settled on beautiful Angela. Her angel eyes and aura kept his attention for the remaining years of his life. They lived for a while on the beach at Stinson, and then back up on the hill. He practiced carpentry, as every archbishop should, and they blessed the assembled Stinsonites with their kind and caring ways. In 1989 a child to them was born, vivacious Katherine ― Kate. Soon after came the news of death. In 1989 Bill Stage was diagnosed with lung cancer (yes, he had started smoking ― camels and herb), and his approach to the door was quiet and firm ― no cutting, no poison, no rays ― he and Angie fought the disease with healthy food and environment. They moved to Hawaii in 1991 and there Bill Stage died on September 28. His ashes were memorialized by the sea in his beloved Stinson Beach, and there and everywhere his spirit continues.


Letter from Osha Reader (Karen Bahnson)

January, 2000

Dear Bill

The first thing I want to say is how much I miss you and how pissed off I feel at you for smoking all those cigarettes. I have no doubt they are what killed you. You said one time we would make love when we were fifty, but you didn't make it to fifty. You were my friend for life. I'm sorry yours was so short.

I remember the first time we met, at Yale, outside St. Anthony Hall. It was the spring of 1964, when I was 20 and you were 21. Your roommate Gordon was my date, and he left me in your keeping while he went to class. Big mistake! You looked like a god to me, so tall and fit, blonde, blue-eyed and incredibly handsome. Women loved you and I was no exception, in spite of feeling a little intimidated and somewhat relieved when Gordon came back to reclaim me. The next time I saw you was at our wedding, a year later...

Three years later in California we reconnected ... You'd finished law school and had contemplated medical school, but now spent your time hanging out with hippie doctors and lawyers, like Billy Davis and Marty Rossman and Merve, playing hoops, watching sports on TV, smoking pot, dropping acid, and going to rock concerts. I was a vegetarian in those days, into meditation and spiritual things. Your friends made fun of me, and you did too, but later that changed... After we'd broken up, you moved to Stinson Beach and started doing days of silence, then weeks, then months. You'd carry a note pad and write notes when it was necessary, otherwise "just let your mind go." You told me once that thought comes from the intention to communicate, and if we let go of the intention, gradually thoughts disappear.

During the years at Stinson Beach, your spiritual side came into full bloom. You became a Universal Life Church minister and performed marriage ceremonies for friends, even when you were still a confirmed bachelor. People were starting to think of you as a teacher.

You and Angela decided to have a baby and got married. You named your daughter Katherine, and I gave her a soft white teddy bear. It is an honor to give a kid something she likes. Later I saw you in a natural food store in Mill Valley and you had put on weight. You and Angela had moved to a house further up on the hill. It had a beautiful garden and you'd been spending your time tending it, and doing landscape work around town to stay gainfully employed. When I heard the news of your illness, I came down to visit and spent an afternoon talking about your prognosis and your determination to beat the cancer. You'd lost a lot of weight, had completely changed your diet and had shaved your head. Your eyes were more alive than I had ever seen them.

The last time I saw you was the day Kate and Angela and some friends went to a goat farm in Hawaii, then met for dinner at a restaurant. You were having trouble, ate very little, coughed a lot. Angela was wonderful trying to connect you with old friends while you still had time. You'd become very weak and needed to sit down a lot. When we said good-bye we both knew it was for the last time. One day when I was in New York, Angela called to tell me you had died. I was unprepared for the grief I felt, and still feel, over our loss. Every May on your birthday I think of you and wish you well, wherever you are. I miss you terribly. You were a dear friend and a magnificent man, and you made your exit with all of the grace and courage I would have expected.