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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bill Cowings

Excellent piece by the Review's Tristan Baurick on the retirement after 15 years of WSF's personable Bill Cowings.

Arriving direct from Hong Kong on that May day in 1995, I was taken aback to be mooching off the early ferry to be greeted by the energetic Bill greeting each of us with rapid-fire customized "Good morning good morning good morning"s.

Bill's a big guy, looming over us, so he was able to stand there at the gang plank, jabbing a finger at the stream of shuffling commuters so each one knew exactly the greeting meant for them.

Back then, it seemed as if everyone knew him because there were many greetings in return.

Later, I noticed fewer reciprocal responses until it reached a point where he'd simply stand there in respectful silence, his face suddenly breaking into that smile whenever anyone bade him their own g'day.

Wasn't there a Nordies ad in the P-I with Bill looking resplendent in some natty duds?

Baurick absolutely captures the generous spirit of the man and well done the editor for giving his piece pride of front-page place.

I started reading it as a celebratory farewell but the piece takes a sombre turn with mention of Bill's knee trouble and WSF's difficulty in finding him a replacement role.

That Bill needed to sue must have saddened him.

There are always two sides to these disputes, so who can tell what was going on, but I was saddened by the image of him signing his papers and then being told he was done and being escorted off, sans chance to say goodbye.

The agreement reached with WSF might have barred Bill from "speaking about broader grievances that also led to his early retirement", but Baurick's piece is a formidable PR coup for the "Good Morning Guy" to which I'm sure WSF spokeslady Susan Harris-Huether has been instructed to draft a business-speke response. But Round One definitely to Bill.

Whatever the facts, I hope Bill's departure from our lives is remembered less for any sour ending than for the sunshine he brought us all.

God bless him and all good wishes for a deserved happy retirement, full of the friendship he made inspired.

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