Seventeen years ago today one of my dearest friends, Bill Mullon, of Anna Maria, Florida, died.
I have gotten permission from his wife, Sandy, to re-post this email that I sent to friends and family seventeen years ago, after I had returned to NYC following Bill’s memorial service. This is it in its entirety, unedited --
I was first introduced to William S. "Moon" Mullon in 1973 by Capt. Frank Cavandish, the owner of the Rod & Reel Pier, which is located diagonally across the street from the house I once owned in Anna Maria. Bill and I became friends and this friendship spanned 2 1/2 decades. Bill had just moved from Cocoa Beach where he had been employed with Boeing and then Tropicana. He had been a member of the City Commission there and a political activist in the Democratic Party.
In the ensuing years as a resident of Anna Maria Island Bill's career path took him from Tropicana to Manatee County government, where he was the County Purchasing Agent, back to Tropicana where he retired about 6 years ago as a Certified Purchasing Manager. He remained politically active in the local Democratic Party. I think the phrase "Yellow Dog Democrat" was coined with him in mind.
In 1976 I was asked to preside over the wedding ceremony uniting Bill and Sandy Gilmore. Sandy is a career upper-level manager/executive with HRS. Their vows were jointly written by Bill, Sandy, and Bill's eldest son, Bill, Jr., aka "Buns."
The ceremony took place at daybreak in the surf adjacent to the City Pier in Anna Maria. Honestly, I doubt anyone in attendance expected that union to last more than a couple of years, if that.
We were wrong - man, were we wrong. Sandy and Bill had a unique relationship, in that not only were they husband and wife, but also, they were truly best friends. They were a house divided on one issue, however. Bill was a Gator and Sandy a 'Nole.
Bill and Sandy lived in a series of places on the Island, each of which they named "The Digs," and finally settled in and purchased "Digs IV" in Holmes Beach. They were famous on the Island for their open hospitality with many many parties commemorated by special T-shirts designed by Sandy. Sandy is an accomplished artist.
I sold my Anna Maria house in 1991, however, shortly thereafter Bill and Sandy made the back bedroom in Digs IV available to me and I would guess that in the ensuing years, whenever I was in Florida, I would spend 3 out of 4 weekends with them. It was my home away from home away from home, it was my refuge. They became my best friends, my extended family, Bill the older brother I never had.
When the phone call came at 12:30am on Sunday morning, July 19th, that Bill had died, I called the airlines and was on a flight down to Anna Maria at 8:55am the same morning. I got there in the early afternoon. Nancy Rhodes, one of Sandy’s oldest and dearest friends was already there.
Family and friends quickly gathered in support of Sandy and Bill's children by a previous marriage, Bill, Jr., Patrick, and Lynn, and their children. Moon was the consummate planner, so I was not surprised to learn that he had planned to the last detail how he wanted things handled when he passed away, I mean, he had scripted his wedding, why not his final memorial services as well? And that he did, down to naming the song to begin the services - "We Have Just Begun" by the Carpenters - and "Margaritaville," by Jimmy Buffett to end the services, which MUST conclude in one hour, max!!!!
The service was held in the Chapel of an Island funeral home on Tuesday evening, July 21st. The chapel was filled with photos and objects covering all aspects of Bill's life, including almost a dozen photo albums recording the social activities of 22 years of Digs Parties.
The standing room crowd included local Islanders, executives from Tropicana, county officials, a local Judge, and just plain folks, all joined to remember, to cry, and especially to laugh. I was honored to have been asked to preside. In addition to me, others who shared their life experiences with Moon, were: his sister Ann; his children Bill, Jr. and Lynn; Bradenton attorney Donald Hadsock; and, Island resident Fred Adkins. As I said, Moon had directed (or perhaps ordered is the operative word) that the service last no longer than one hour, so, at the end of the hour, as the sounds of "Margaritaville" filled the Chapel, we all stood and sang along with Jimmy Buffett ......
When the song ended, I concluded the evening by saying ....
"SO LONG MOON - WE WILL SEEYA LATER!!"
Yes, it has been seventeen years but in many respects it feels like it all happened yesterday and I still miss him as if it were yesterday.
He will never be forgotten by his family and friends. There is a void in our hearts and on Anna Maria Island that will never be filled.