Bill Edmondson never went anywhere without a pen or pencil. Ideas for stories and poems would come to the Santa Rosa writer while reading about the extinction of birds or sitting in traffic on his way to San Francisco.
“He wrote and edited poems in his head while driving,” said his son Casey Edmondson, 25, of Santa Rosa.
He said his father’s works were published in literary publications, such as Field, Fugue and Confrontation magazines. He also published a novel and collection of poems.
Edmondson died of cancer July 9. He was 76.
He was born and raised on a farm a few miles south of Bandon, a coastal city in Oregon. The middle child of three, he tended to the chickens and cows on the farm. As a child, he enjoyed the rural lifestyle, spending hours fishing and picking blackberries and cranberries alongside the road, his son said.
Edmondson later moved to Crescent City, where he attended high school. But he didn’t graduate. Edmondson dropped out of school and joined the Navy at the age of 17.
“He was bored in school,” his son said. “He wanted to get out of the small town and see the world.”
That’s what he did.
While in the Navy, he traveled throughout the Pacific and Mediterranean. He went to Australia, Greece and Spain. He saw the catacombs in Rome and made trips to Hong Kong and Tokyo. However, he quit the service in 1968 after participating in the attack of Hue, an ancient city in Vietnam, his son added.
“He was very upset about the nature of the war and the fact that he was obligated to participate,” Casey Edmondson said.
Their father was a man with strong convictions, added son Walker Edmondson, 34, of Chico.
“He was unapologetic when it came to these things,” he said.
His father also was compassionate and understanding, which made him a great college professor for students learning to speak English, he added.
After service in the Navy, Edmondson moved to Oakland and enrolled in college. He transferred to San Francisco State University, where he earned a master’s in English in 1974.
He spent several years working an assortment of jobs — such as sorting mail, managing a motel and driving a taxi in San Francisco — before teaching English as a second language at City College of San Francisco, Casey Edmondson said.
“He wasn’t a man afraid of work,” he said.
It was at the post office where he met his wife, Ann Edmondson, who also attended San Francisco State. “They were next to each other at the sorting line,” their youngest son added.
The couple married in 1971 and moved two decades later to Santa Rosa.
He didn’t mind working in a mail room or driving a taxi, but his passion revolved around English. He wanted to share his love for the language. A disciplined poet and novelist, he was meticulous about his writing, but he was nonjudgmental with his ESL students. His students found him “warm and approachable,” Walker Edmondson said.
After teaching for 36 years, he retired in 2012. But he continued to write.
For leisure, Edmondson golfed several times a week at Bennett Valley Golf Course and walked almost daily around Spring Lake, where he liked to people watch and admire nature.