R. William Hunziker, the oldest member of one of Whidbey Island’s oldest families, passed away on August 23 at age 94. Born in Everett, Bill was raised on the north end of Columbia Beach near the ferry dock. His father, Stanley, was a captain on the ferry, and Bill’s summer jobs were as a deckhand. He was captivated by the ferries and the people who ran them and over his life, became an informal historian of both.
Bill would have followed in his father’s footsteps, but his parents encouraged him to go to college, and he eventually spent his career in California college classrooms. In 1944, he earned a BS in engineering from University of Washington. After the war, he worked at Underwriters Laboratory in the Bay Area, where he met Patricia Thompson, whom he married in 1948.
His preference for working with people instead of machines led him to return to school and earn a teaching credential. He taught high school science for one year in Bothell, and returned to California, where he taught high school for four years.
In the fall of 1954, Bill had an opportunity to teach at the college level. He moved his wife and two children, Susan and Paul, to Chico, California to became an instructor of physical science and astronomy at Chico State College. Bill earned an MA and PhD in science education from the University of California, Berkeley, and he retired from Chico State in 1986.
The reappearance of Halley’s Comet that same year allowed him to trace Halley’s footsteps in England and the comet itself in Australia, where he traveled with Virginia Anderson, the widow of a college friend, whom he had married. After Virginia passed away in 2010, Bill rekindled his friendship with Tally Clark Mackie, whom he knew as a teenager. They were married in 2013.
For all his travels, his delight in Whidbey Island never waned. When he returned to Seattle after retirement, he reconnected with old friends and found new ones who both shared his passion. His impressive memory of events and individuals and his personal collection of photographs and other artifacts contributed much to the efforts of local historians and the South Whidbey Historical Society.
Among these artifacts are 16mm films he made in the 1930s, that captured life on Whidbey Island as it was before World War II—people, landscapes, everyday events and ferry boats. Many of his films were among the first filmed in Technicolor. In 2013, these films were digitized to preserve this record.
Whidbey TV is developing a series on Whidbey History. Last winter, a TV crew went to Seattle to interview Bill and Tally. That series when completed will tell some of their stories of growing up on Whidbey Island. Bill is survived by his daughter Susan, who lives in Boston. A memorial service will be held on November 18 in Clinton Community Hall at 1:30 p.m.