2014-03-13 / Obituaries

Wilfrid Laurier Essex, Jr.

Wilfrid Laurier Essex, Jr., known to friends and family as Bill, died at home in Visalia surrounded by loved ones on Friday, Feb. 28. He was 86 years old.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Wilfrid and Febronia Essex. He is survived by his brother Denis Essex (Shirley) and family, three children, Dana Essex (Tom Nichols), Bill Essex, III (Ronda) and Susan Essex (Jeff Monical), and seven grandchildren, Hannah Cruzen, Will Cruzen, Michael Essex, Trenton Essex, Lauren Essex, Wayne Monical, and Jackson Monical. Bill is also survived by Thelma Essex, the mother of his three children, close friend and health-care navigator.

Bill was born in Los Angeles on March 31, 1928. He was a graduate of Los Angeles High School, University of Southern California and Fresno State. He was a veteran of the Korean War, serving as master sergeant with the 115th Medical Battalion–40th Infantry Division.

Bill began his chemistry teaching career in 1954 at Roosevelt High School in Fresno. He joined the chemistry faculty at the College of Sequoias one year later. Many pre-med and pre-nursing students reported surviving the organic chemistry requirement because of Bill’s teaching and support. He taught at the college until his retirement in 1985.

Known for his avid curiosity, and as a life-long learner, Bill enjoyed many avocations over the years. He was a marksman and gun collector since high school. Bill was a longtime member of the Visalia Sportsman Association and the National Rifle Association.

He also was a builder who completed a number of home renovations and built a duplex himself. He was drawn to many a unique project. Bill hand split shakes for a new roof for an Essex family home renovation after cutting the wood from a fallen redwood in Sequoia National Forest.

In more recent years, Bill designed and supervised the building of a family cabin near Mariposa, where his family owned a ranch since 1950.

Bill enjoyed a lifelong fascination with farming, which dated to childhood visits with the Essex family, who farmed in Iowa. After grafting and growing projects with trees and vines, he built a large greenhouse to grow cucumbers and tomatoes for one season. He also planted and harvested an acre of sweet corn alongside the greenhouse. The Essex farm supplied the neighborhood for the summer.

Over the years Bill studied precision metal machining, wood working, ceramics and drawing. He loved ice skating and roller skating. He built an early personal computer from a kit. He spent early retirement years as a Realtor. Bill was the last president of the Linwood Mutual Water Company in Visalia.

Bill was a devoted father and grandfather, always cheering on any activity or giving what the family affectionately called his “lectures” on any subject. He was an accomplished pianist who inspired the love of music in many family members. The family will cherish the memory of surrounding Bill with song during his final days.

A celebration of Bill’s life for family and friends will be held on at 11 a.m. on April 19 at the Essex Ranch in Bootjack, in Mariposa County.

Boots and jeans are recommended for this casual event. Contact son Bill Essex of Modesto for information about the memorial at 604-9118.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent in Bill’s name to the College of Sequoias Foundation at 915 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia, Calif., 93277, or www.cos.edu/foundation.

Arrangements were made by Smith Family Chapel in Exeter. Condolences may be added at www.smithfamilychapel.com.

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