in a Baltimore Sun photo essay on the Patterson Bowling Center, where he participated in a senior league.
Bill, or "Albee" as he has been known since his youth, was famous within the family as the chief entertainer and gamesmaster for holidays and other gatherings. It was he who kept alive Highlandtown's Easter tradition of "egg picking" for so many years, until the Schenning branch of the family tree ran with it and spun it into a greater spectacle in the early 1990s. He would perform musical numbers and hold trivia contests, usually drafting the children into the merriment. It was only appropriate, because he was 100% in touch with his inner child. But Bill was most in his element each summer at the family reunion picnic, when he would invite all of the kids to take part in a variety of games, with all sorts of prizes at stake. Just so nobody would be left out of the fun, the adults were corraled into "horse races". Each person in the race grabbed a different-colored shirt and a post position and chose a horse name. The "horses" lined up in order, and the spectators bet a few dollars on their respective favorites. A couple of dice were rolled to determine which horse moved forward, and how many steps they were allowed to take. First one to cross the finish line won, and shared the money with the winning bettors. I'm proud to say that I took the prize last year in Uncle Bill's last horse race, wearing the red and going by the name Bunches of Oats.
As I've been reflecting on the life (and passing) of my grandmother Boots' big brother, two memories stand out in my mind. Nine years ago, when we learned that Boots had only a few hours left to live, the entire family gathered at the hospital to be with her. When everyone had arrived and the doctor took her off of oxygen, Uncle Bill led us all in singing the standard "Side by Side", originally written by Harry Woods in 1927 but popularized by Kay Starr. The second recollection is a bit more cheerful. When Janet and I got married in September of 2013, Bill and Elrita were in attendance. It meant a lot to me to have them there, being from my Gram's generation. After the ceremony, we stood for a receiving line so we could say a little something to all of our guests before getting caught up in the bustle of posing for formal photos. As Uncle Bill walked up, he gave me one of his big, beaming grins and said, "There's my buddy!". It's such a simple thing, but I'll carry it with me.