Born in North East, Pennsylvania to the late Winfred and Julia (Schultz) Near on January 19, 1925, he grew up on a dairy farm in Sherman, New York, where they farmed with horses and logged with oxen.
Bill married Norriel (Nonie) Lanphere April 28, 1950 and they were married for 62 years before she passed away in 2012. They lived in Ripley, New York where they raised five children.In his younger years Bill went to all the barn dances in the area as well as local square dances where he loved to dance the ladies around the floor. Always a gentleman, he never missed an opportunity to compliment a waitress, nurse or store clerk and make them smile.
When he returned home, he worked on the Nickel Plate railroad, and then became an over-the-road truck driver. Always mechanically inclined, he used his skills as an auto and truck mechanic for many years. He drove school bus in Ripley for several years and he worked as a custodian at BOCES, in Lakewood, NY, then as a security guard for Mogen David Winery in Westfield, then North East Marina, North East, PA.
Bill loved music and listened to Molly B’s Polka Party faithfully for years. Besides polka music he loved to listen to bagpipes. In his later years he decided to teach himself various instruments to “keep his mind sharp.” He learned to play the concertina, mountain dulcimer and autoharp and while never proficient at any of them, he enjoyed the learning process and practiced them throughout the years.
At the age of 17 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, aboard the USS Izard and USS Ross, taking part in the Philippine’s Liberation including the battles of Leyte Gulf and Lingayen Gulf as well as the battles of Iwo Jima and Truck Island among others, earning 13 battle stars in all.
Discharged in 1945 from the Navy, Bill and a friend worked their way across the country, doing odd jobs. Upon his return, he enlisted in the Navy Reserves in 1950 and was called up for the Korean Conflict and served on the USS Lioba until 1952.
Over the years, Bill adopted several dogs, but especially loved his Basset Hound, Herky, and his Dobermans, Sabrina and Sydney. He loved feeding the birds and watching them at the feeder, through his living room window.
As well as his wife and parents, Bill was preceded in death by his sisters Alice Rogers of Erie, PA and Audrey Rowe of Corning, NY.
He is survived by his children Robyn (Bob) Albright of Ripley; Shelley Near (Peter Boesch) of Erie, PA; Dawn (Ted) Rickenbrode of Ripley, NY; William Jr. (Aileen) of Orchard Park, NY; and Paris (Gill) Graham of Knoxville, Tennessee; twenty-one grandchildren, as well as six great-grandchildren; sisters Dorothy Johnson of Mesa, AZ and Betty Richardson of Berwyn, IL; a brother Gerald Near of California; as well as many nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be at Mathews Funeral Home in Ripley, NY, services by Michael Fantauzzi of Fredonia, from noon until 2 p.m. on February 28, 2015. A private memorial service will be held at a later date. “Flowers are for the living,” Bill said. Please make a donation to the organization or charity of your choice in his name.