“NEXT……..” Remembering William Abell!


Sculptor/Artist William Abell with the magnificent sculpture he carved that he donated for a fundraiser a few years ago.

To most people the word “NEXT” means something that’s “just around the corner” and I have no doubt that one of the mountain’s  favorite people, William “Will” Abell, is enjoying his “NEXT” encounter.

Will died last Monday, August 6. To him, the word “NEXT” meant more than it does to many people. When times were tough, or unhappy situations presented themselves he would do his share of grieving or being angry and then say…..”NEXT” because singularly or as a couple with his wife Pamela, he felt it was time to let it go and move on. Carrying around “a lot of baggage” was never Will’s way of working and dealing with life. He met his future wife when she was only 16-years-old and at the time of his death they had been married for 32 years. Not many couples can claim the longevity that this couple could, but then again, not many couples were William and Pamela. They were unique in the best sense of the word!

Will had been ill for a while with an auto-immune disease called Wegeners Disease which can go undiagnosed for years and is fatal. It eventually claimed his life. Knowing that he didn’t have years to live he made a list of things he wanted to do before he died and not surprisingly, he did them all. This fact won’t surprise anyone who knew him. When he set a goal he finished it even during the last months of his life when his body was failing him.

Pamela said that William  wanted to make sure she would be alright after he died and one of the most thoughtful things he did was to sell his beloved truck without telling her. He took part of the money and purchased a new car for her and he also told her he wanted her to purchase a new one every five years so she would have a reliable vehicle in the mountains. Pamela said that when she was only five-years old she knew she would marry someone who wore glasses and that they would travel and get to know people from all over the world. “With Bill, it all unfolded,” she said.

William’s grandmother had a cabin in the mountains ever since 1930 and as a child he spent summers in the mountains, soaking in all it had to offer a young boy and (then) growing young man. His grandmother joined the Lake Gregory Country Club (now San Moritz) and he would happily spent hours fishing in the lake and soaking in the beauty that surrounded him. These experiences must have really made a vivid impression on him because he remained in the mountains all his life and it was an “integral part” of who he was as a human being. He saw so much beauty in the mountains and that must have been a huge influence on his artistic creativity.

William was an artist, a man who deeply loved his family, the environment, his friends and life. Pamela and Will’s Skyforest home is like walking into an artist’s studio as it is  decorated with paintings, carvings, stained glass, books, ceramics and a few antiques but it isn’t remotely cluttered. Their home is an example of art itself because it is airy and light which reflects the beauty that is right outside the door.  The windows were built to take the best advantage of the wind and throughout the couple of hours I spent with Pamela soft breezes brought fresh air into the house.

William loved, and I do mean loved, the mountains and his commitment to mountain living was evident in his connection to nature and keeping the mountains as pristine and free of overdevelopment as possible. Throughout the years he became an integral member of mountain environmental groups and although he was often quiet spoken, when it came to protecting the environment of the mountains he loved so much, he did not remain silent. A few years ago to raise funds to fight a large proposed project in the mountains he carved, and then donated, a magnificent sculpture which brought in a lot of money to help fund “the good fight” against a project he and many others felt would be a disaster on a variety of levels.

William was an artist and in some ways it’s hard to imagine that he could have painted or sculpted a life that would have been better than the one he had. He and  Pamela moved into their home 22 years ago and from the moment I walked into it I could tell it’s an artist’s retreat and has been a sanctuary for both of them. Their delightful home was originally built by Mary and Joe Matthews.

Pamela and Will’s story is one of those unusual true love stories and it has nothing to do with money or notoriety . What it does have to do with is love, having a sense of humor, caring deeply about the other person, being committed and being willing to move on to the “next” part of life. Pamela said that every single week William would bring her flowers or something from the forest and through good times and bad they believed that “love is the small details in life.”

As an artist one of the projects William was thrilled to do a few years ago was a water wall for the City of Glendale. It’s huge and it starts in the courtyard but ends inside the building. It was totally unique and he was thrilled to be awarded the contract for this extensive project. Pamela said that the project required someone who not only was artistic but who knew engineering and his background helped earn him the commission. She said one of the unique things about the wall (and one of the things that probably made it more challenging) was that when you look at it your eyes see one thing but as you continue looking you see other shapes that flow, one into another.

We all leave a footprint on the hearts of the people we care about and I know that Will, with his great smile and wonderful sense of humor, his compassion, his commitment to community and his love and zest for life. will be remembered forever by his family and friends.

In addition to his wife, Will  is survived by his son Mark and future daughter-in-law Tara Miller,  his brother Paul and many friends whose lives he touched! In keeping with Bill’s wishes, no services are planned.

Before I left, we were talking about life, from one widow to another. Pamela said that William’s life was a work of art. I imagine that his close friends and family couldn’t have said it better. She added that William was so generous to her and their son Mark in many ways and they always knew they were completely loved. Speaking about her late husband she said, “The life and family we created has been by choice. We have been together all these years by choice. Our trust and certainty in our family, and the knowledge that whatever happened, we would always be a family is also a choice,” she said. The love this couple shared through the tough times of a devastating illness is an example of grace, dedication, respect and in some ways, gratitude.

Pamela said she’s thinking of needlepointing a pillow that says, “NEXT.” What a glorious idea! Will would love it!