Bill Reese: Arlington teacher inspired many during fight with cancer
06:46 AM CDT on Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By TOYA LYNN STEWART / The Dallas Morning News
Bill Reese was passionate about the things he loved – his family, the church, his students, the theater and martial arts.
He earned two black belts for his athletic prowess, but his other recognition came from the lives of those the Arlington high school teacher touched.
His final life lesson both inside and outside of the classroom began a month ago when Mr. Reese was diagnosed with liver cancer.
He was hospitalized in April and began aggressive treatment to prolong his life.
His wife, Jane, said she knew his death was coming and felt a sense of urgency to get him home. The last words he spoke to her, on Saturday, were, " 'You're in charge,' " she said. "I knew he was giving me the job and responsibility to carry out his wishes."
Mr. Reese died Monday evening, about 10 minutes after arriving at his home in Arlington. He was with his wife, children and mother-in-law.
"When he took his last breath, we saw a tear in his eye," Mrs. Reese said Tuesday. "He was sad for us, but it was also tears of joy because he knew where he was going, and there was peace and joy with that.
"I'm missing him, but at the same time his presence is thick all around me."
Mr. Reese taught at Bowie and Sam Houston high schools in the Arlington school district for five years. He also taught classes at Tarrant County College and Dallas Baptist University. Mr. Reese was active at Park Springs Bible Church.
After Mr. Reese was diagnosed with liver cancer, students, colleagues, church members, his theater friends and others rallied around him and his family. A profile of their efforts and his story was published last week in The Dallas Morning News.
Mr. Reese said at that time that he had made his peace with God, but he was determined to fight his disease for as long as he could.
Students praised Mr. Reese's efforts to reach out as their teacher. They also said he created a bond with them by sharing details of his life.
Mary Schadt, a speech teacher at Sam Houston High, said Mr. Reese was a dedicated and imaginative educator.
"Any other teacher can learn from that," she said. "He respected students' privacy, he respected students' boundaries, and he cared about what they thought. He was not afraid to reach out to students. He knew it was the right thing to do."
In an interview with The News a few weeks ago, Mrs. Reese called her husband's teaching talent a gift from God. She described her husband as loyal, faithful and committed to whatever he did.
Although a bout with eye cancer slowed him down in 2003, he recovered and jumped back into his active lifestyle.
His mother-in-law, Louise Gouge, said Tuesday that her daughter was blessed to have him as a husband.
"We prayed for a holy man that would be good and strong," Ms. Gouge said. "Bill was that man, and we will miss him terribly."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Reese is survived by a son, Forest William; a daughter, Savannah Grace; parents Bob and Milbra Reese of Columbia, S.C.; and a brother, Jim Reese, also of Columbia, S.C.
A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Cornerstone Baptist Church, 5415 Matlock Road in Arlington. He will be cremated.