Published in Marin Independent Journal on Jan. 30, 2014
O. William (Bill) Leidel, retired Commander, USN, left this life
peacefully at his home in San Rafael on January 4, 2014.
He left on his own terms. He decided that after ninety-six and a
half years, he was ready. Said goodbye. And with a smile,
crossed over, naturally.
Born April 21, 1917 in San Jose, CA to Captain O. William and
Mary Leidel, Bill was the oldest of three boys. Bill was always an
athlete, and graduated from Western High School (1935) in
Washington, D.C., where he lettered in football and tennis. In
1941, Bill went on to graduate from Georgetown University,
School of Foreign Services, Div. of Business and Public Administration, B.S.
Bill was a born Navy man. His dad was a Navy Captain. One brother was a Navy
Captain. His other brother was a Lieutenant in the Marines. So Bill entered the U.S. Navy
on December 10, 1941, three days after Pearl Harbor, as Ensign, S.C. and served in
WWII on the seaplane tender U.S.S. Pocomoke and the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hancock.
He saw action in WWII, manning a gunnery station while the carrier was being attacked
by Japanese warplanes. He told his stories with an excitement and a gleam in his eye
that brought you right there.
He met his love, Janet Merrill, in 1944 and they were married March 24, 1945. During his
years in the Navy the dashing couple were citizens of the world, living in Florida, Puerto
Rico, Pennsylvania, California and Japan. Along the way they had three children. In 1962
he transferred to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, CA. And in 1963, after 21 years
in the Navy he retired with the rank of Commander, moving his family to San Rafael.
He purchased a laundromat. Became an investment advisor. And was managing partner
of the Thunderbird Lodge in Oakland's Jack London Square. He loved sailing so he
bought a boat and took his family out on the bay often. In 1969, he and Janet built their
dream house. And then, he retired in earnest, to travel, to play tennis and golf, and spend
time with his wife, kids and grandchildren.
Ever adventurous, when he turned 80 he took up a new hobby - sculling on the Corte
In 2006, after 61 years of marriage, Janet passed away. But at 90 years old, sparkling
Bill found new love when Lucy Miller arrived at Alma Via. Lucy, he said, made him feel
like a teenager again. They were together until her passing a few months ago.
He was handsome, intelligent, charming, witty, and lit up the room with his smile. His
children are often told how wonderful their father was, to which they simply answer, "Yes,
we know." Bill is survived by his children Joanne, Stephen and Alison (Piko),
daughter-in-law, Heidi, son-in-law Michael, grandchildren Jordan, Jena, Elvin and Thea,
and step-grandchildren Lauren and Peter.
Memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m., Sunday, February 9, 2014 at Alma Via, 515
Northgate Drive, San Rafael, CA.