898 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2019
observe, was most often found wanting. Somehow he could see into people:
the good, the bad, the lot in between. His observations, which were widely
shared and were deeply cut, covered a broad remit in his life and in his profession.
He had a deep respect for judicial tolerance and wisdom and was
well versed in the great cases emphasizing personal liberty. He had an abiding
disdain for any abuse of authority. As a lawyer he was nearly indifferent
to the business of law—he could not care less that the old beater he drove
had burlap seat covers. Instead his focus was on the essence of the players
involved in his case: the recalcitrant, the police officer, the prosecutor, the
judge, the fetching witness and probably the guy who ran the parking lot.
Billy was many things: a historian, well versed in multitudes of military
campaigns; a chess player, who upon suffering a defeat would hold forth
about the “humiliating surrender of Tobruk”; a vintner, who squeezed each
grape one at a time; a food gourmet, of the peasant variety; a lover of art
and beauty, who collected paintings, Persian carpets and Rococo furniture;
a local politician who successfully ran on the “no development anywhere
ever” ticket (he rode to campaign forums on his tractor because he had
given up his car. He wore faulty hearing aids because he had put his through
the wash. This assisted him greatly to ignore all the other speakers); and a
landscaper, who never cut grass or trimmed anything, but who planted hundreds
of trees around the property and insisted each tree be watered only
by hand (the hundreds of trees formed a “defensive perimeter” around his
farm. He insisted the main reason he dug so many holes and planted so
many trees was because the “scantily clad women joggers would distract me
from my thinking”).
Billy was beloved: beloved by his large family, even though he could
cause consternation; beloved by his friends, who rightfully accorded him
legendary status; beloved by those in the court system who understood that
he had dirt on his gown because when he got home from court he had
hurled himself down on the ground at the base of one of his trees and, after
emptying his wine glass, used it to dig out an attacking gopher.
Although he sought solitude, he had valued friends and touched many
lives in a beautiful way. He never married, but he cohabited—with squirrels,
crows, deer, bears, jays, rabbits, raccoons and of course chickens. No
doubt they all knew he was special.
No doubt they will all deeply miss him too.
Peter Ritchie, Q.C., and Robert Diebolt, Q.C.