BILL REESE 1967-2006
Minister was a beloved teacher
By MARK AGEE
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON - On April 20th, Bill Reese was celebrating the sixth birthday of his son, Forest, with his wife and newborn daughter.
But when stomach pain kept him from eating much at Forest's birthday party, his wife insisted that he go to the doctor.
He was admitted to Arlington Memorial Hospital the next day and was soon diagnosed with liver cancer.
Mr. Reese spent the remaining five weeks of his life at the hospital, except for the last few minutes. He died Monday shortly after being taken home in an ambulance to be with his family.
"It all happened so quickly. But we were all here and it was quiet," his wife, Jane Reese, said. "It was peaceful."
Mr. Reese lived a vital, active life.
The 39-year-old teacher had a black belt in karate and had recently played the genie in a Creative Arts Theatre and School production of Aladdin.
He worked extra jobs so his wife could stay home with their children.
In addition to teaching speech at Sam Houston High School, he also taught at Dallas Baptist University and worked as an associate pastor at Park Springs Baptist Church.
"He worked three jobs so I could be a homemaker, because he knew my heart was here with the children," Jane Reese said.
Mr. Reese grew up in South Carolina and earned a bachelor's degree from Charleston Southern University and a master's degree from the University of South Carolina.
He met his wife while they were both studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
Jane's father, David Gouge, said he liked Mr. Reese from the start because Mr. Reese was old-fashioned.
"He asked me for my blessing of his relationship with Jane," Gouge said. "And he promised me that he would ask me for her hand in marriage when it was time."
When Mr. Reese was diagnosed with liver cancer, his doctor told him that it was terminal, his wife said.
"The doctor said that he should go home and get his affairs in order," Jane Reese said. "But he wanted to fight. And we found a doctor that wanted to fight. It wasn't so much for him, as it was for us. It bought him more time and gave us more time to make peace."
He used the time to videotape messages for his young children, Forest and Savannah, now two months old. He also inscribed a message in his Bible for Forest. A friend took a portrait of the family in a hospital room while other friends held up a black sheet as a backdrop.
"He bucked up for that," his mother-in-law Louise Gouge said. "He wanted to make sure that everybody else was OK, because he knew he was OK."
During his illness, a family friend created a Web site to update supporters about Mr. Reese's condition. A group of men from Park Springs Baptist Church and other churches took turns staying the night with Mr. Reese.
Mr. Reese rarely talked about his illness, but asked about what was going on in the lives of his guests. He handed out books of scripture and talked about God.
The student council at Sam Houston organized a fundraiser that raised more than $2,300 to help with expenses.
"They thought very highly of him, not just the students, but the faculty," Sam Houston Principal Beverley McReynolds said. "Students connect with teachers who put forth that extra effort and show that they care, and that's something that Mr. Reese did very well."
The student response was especially meaningful, the family said.
"When you're a teacher, you don't know if you're making an impact. That touched my heart," Jane Reese said. "Before he passed, he was able to see that he had touched their lives."
Jane Reese plans to have her husband's body cremated and spread his ashes in the mountains of Tennessee, where he spent many weekends with his family growing up.
Left to remind Jane Reese of her husband is a binder of e-mails that friends sent to the hospital, baskets of cards and several laminated posters signed by students wishing him well.
"He was much beloved," she said. "I'm not surprised by it. It was a testament to how he lived his life."