We are very sad to report that Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose’s younger brother and historian Dr. Edie Ambrose’s father, William Gilbert Ambrose, recently passed away after a short battle with cancer.
Yakir Katz, who is married to Edie and along with her owns Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours, was Bill’s son-in-law and had the pleasure of spending many summers in his good company at the family home in Maine.
“Stephen and Bill attended college at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and were both history buffs. Even though Bill went in a different direction with his career, he was a big supporter of the family business and traveled on many tours with us. He loved that Stephen followed his passion for history. The two brothers also shared a love for birding and had lifelong bird lists, a list of all the bird species they had identified with absolute certainty during their lifetime of birding.”
In his memory, we hope you will take a moment to read this wonderful account of Bill’s life written by Edie and her mother, Priscilla.
William Gilbert Ambrose – January 1, 1938-September 2, 2015
On 2 September 2015, William Gilbert Ambrose died of pancreatic cancer after a two-month battle against the disease. Bill was born January 1, 1938 in Decatur, Ill. He was the third son of Stephen H. Ambrose, MD and Rosepha Trippe Ambrose. His father was the family doctor in Whitewater, Wisconsin and his mother was the granddaughter of the founder of the town. Bill was the youngest of three boys. His older brothers were the late Harry T. Ambrose and the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose. All three graduated from Whitewater High School.
Bill pledged the Chi Psi fraternity at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1956 and he graduated with his B.A. in History in 1960. Upon graduation he entered the Navy, attending Officers Candidate School in Pensacola, FL. His first duty was Midway Island in the Pacific. In that setting, Bill met Priscilla Joy Wilder of Winchester, MA who was teaching school on the island. Bill proposed on their first date. She declined. They were married October 27, 1962.
His first duty after Midway was in Bethesda Maryland where their first child was born. Bill began his career in business at Corning Glass Works in Corning, NY before their second child came 18 months later. Twins followed in 1967 and the family lived in Corning until 1980 when the Glass Works transferred Bill to the United Kingdom. They lived in Durham England for the next three years where all of the children had the experience of attending a British school. In 1983, the family returned to the United States and they lived in Ridgewood New Jersey where the twins graduated from high school. They moved to Hingham Mass in 1985 and Bill continued his career by working at Pharmasol Corporation until he decided to become a small business owner and they moved to Maine for the rest of his life.
To begin self-employment, they purchased a furniture manufacturing and retail concern in South Portland called “Concepts in Comfort,” and they moved to North Yarmouth. Three years later, they added another layer to the family business when they purchased Bradco Chair Company in Lisbon, and Bill would remain focused on chair manufacturing for his last 27 years. With an output of hundreds of chairs annually, Bill operated the business and sold Bradco tables and chairs to many town libraries and resorts.
When they retired in 2002, Bill started another business from their home in North Yarmouth. Walnut Hill Antique Chair Repair combined the woodworking skills Bill inherited and learned from his father with his own manufacturing experience. He spent the last years of his life in his shop, honing his skills and repairing chairs. By the time of his death, he left more than three hundred different customers happy. In 1998, Bill was named the SBA Small Business Person of the Year from the State of Maine and he and Priscilla had the opportunity to shake hands with President Bill and Hillary Clinton when he received the award in Washington, DC.
He was always a great tennis player and taught all four of his children to play—as well as countless others. In his retired years he was involved with many Portland-area tennis clubs including serving as captain for the Net Prophets mixed-doubles team when they went to the National Tournament in Orlando in 2005. Bill loved to ski and he served as a volunteer ski instructor for most of the years he was raising young children. He also loved ice-skating, woodworking, hiking and was once a beekeeper. He was an avid gardener. Raising flowers and vegetables from seed in his greenhouse, he planted two gardens every year, one in North Yarmouth and the other in Friendship. Every year, he canned at least fifty quarts of tomatoes.
Bill was a lifetime bridge player. He was on the board of Skyline Farm in North Yarmouth where he walked his dog every day. He was active in the North Yarmouth First Congregational Church. One of his most prideful accomplishments was to score two holes-in-one during his golfing years. He was an ardent birder and achieved a significant life list of sightings.
While Bill grew up in the Midwest, when he married Priscilla he also wed the summer community in Friendship Maine where she is a fourth generation descendent of the original landowners. Raising his family and dwelling there as a seasonal resident for more than five decades, Bill participated in every activity. On the tennis court, in the sailboat races, on the dock and on the front porch, he was a fixture who will be deeply missed. He is survived by his wife Priscilla W. Ambrose of North Yarmouth and his three daughters with their spouses, Fonda Ambrose and Page Hereford of St. Louis, Edith Rosepha Ambrose and Yakir Katz of New Orleans, Rachel Cady Ambrose and Mike Howe of South Portland. He also leaves a son, David Montague Ambrose and his partner Beto of Portland Oregon. In addition, five grandchildren: Sally, Thomas, and Emily Hereford; Talia and Sivan Katz Ambrose. His beloved Apricot Standard Poodle, Dobie, will also miss him.
A service will be held at the North Yarmouth Congregational Church on October 9, 2015 at 11am.