Bill was born in Miles City, Montana to Mortimore and Alma Johnson Niles. His first home was a bunk car where his parents lived while his dad worked for the railroad. He also lived in Lester, Washington for a short period of time before he started school and his parents moved into Tacoma. He lived in Tacoma until his senior year at Stadium High School when his father again moved the family, now including two younger sisters, Patty and Linda, to Auburn. Bill graduated from Auburn High School in 1960. In the fall he joined the Air Force, learning radio technology, and was stationed in Thule, Greenland and Anchorage, Alaska. Deciding that military service was not his lifetime objective, he started taking college classes and discovered he really had a penchant for higher learning. After being discharged from the Air Force, he transferred to Western Washington State College, arriving in Winter Quarter and promptly met his future wife. He married Kathleen Lewis in September 1966 and they began their adventurous life together, moving often, first to Missoula, Montana where Bill continued his education in Forestry Engineering. Bill graduated from the University of Montana in 1969 and his first job was with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Colville Indian Reservation. Bill and Kathy moved there with their three-month old daughter, Ann and resided in the area for two ½ years, the family growing larger with the birth of their son, Ted. Leaving Eastern Washington, Bill transferred into the USDA Forest Service, first to Grants Pass, Oregon on the Siskiyou Forest, then to the Tongass National Forest district in Sitka, Alaska where he stayed, off and on, for five years. The Forest Service sent Bill to UC Berkeley for his Masters in Transportation Engineering during this time. They returned to Sitka for a year before it was Bill’s time to move again…this time to the Sierra National Forest. And so, it continued, a few years in one place and then the wanderlust would set in, and Bill would move again to either Alaska or California until he retired in 1998 and he and Kathy moved to Whidbey Island to be close to family in Coupeville.
During retirement, Bill became very interested in both his and Kathy’s family history. This led to many adventures as he and Kathy traveled throughout the US, most of Canada, and northern Europe as they tried to retrace their ancestors’ paths. These years also allowed him to work part-time at Skagit Valley College as a courier, a job he truly enjoyed.
Bill became ill with an undiagnosed neuromuscular illness in 2017 and was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig Disease in 2019. Because of his military service, he was referred to the VA Hospital in Seattle where the ALS team assisted him over the remainder of his life. He also received assistance from the Whidbey Hospice Team allowing him to stay in his home for the duration and to look out the window and see the Olympic Mountains which he used as a study point, memorizing the names and heights of each mountain top. He also enjoyed memorizing scripture; as a born-again Christian, he fed on God’s Word to give him and his family strength in their day to day living. The family also want to thank his caregiver, Libby, for her devotion, her faith, and her great breakfasts. And to his family, especially his daughter, Ann, for staying with dad and mom during these trying months. Bill would also want to thank all those who have befriended him and his family over the years, his church family from Coupeville Community Bible Church, his neighbors, and friends that he has made wherever he has lived or traveled.
Bill leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Kathleen, his daughter, Ann, and son-in-law, Tom Moss from Boise, his son Ted, and companion, Angi, from Lynden, grandchildren, Keri McBride and husband, David, from Longview, Texas, Mackenzie Moss and Thomas Moss from Boise, Idaho, Savannah Dooney and husband, Gerard from Fairbanks, Alaska, Dalaini Niles from Chehalis, Washington and Ivy Niles from Lynden, WA. Each grandchild has been a special blessing to Bill.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 1pm, Saturday, October 2nd at Coupeville Community Bible Church, 502 NE Otis Street.