A memorial for Bill was held at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club on Friday July 19th, 2002 - followed by the scattering of his ashes at sea. My wife and I were unable to attend, but thoughtful friends were kind enough to send us photographs and a video. From everything we've heard and seen, it was a beautiful tribute.

Photos within photos. (Right) The speaker's table - taken by Jeff Kruthers.

(Above) Bill at Topanga Beach circa 1962, taken by Co Rentmeester. The flag behind the photo a reminder that Bill served in the United States Marine Corps.

From left to right: Danny Bearer, John Van Hamersveld, Terry (?), Kemp Aaberg and Woody Woodward (back to camera). Photo by Jeff Kruthers.

George Van Noy's description: 

Two boats made their way to sea from Santa Barbara Harbor at sunset on July 19, 2002. The small sailboat carried a handful of Bill's friends, including Captain Tom Dietsch, Bob Herron, John Van Hamersveld and others.

The main boat carried all the Cleary clan and friends, Mary and Omar, Lori and Zoe, Barbara and Mariella, Lori's son Ryan, Barbara's son Adrian, George Van Noy and his friend Mews Small, Jim Fitzpatrick, Rick Hodgson, John Clemens, Bob Garcia, Tony Allina, Jeff Morril, Randy Urban, and others.

Photo by John Van Hamersveld

On deck of the big boat, wrapped in velvet, stood an urn with Bill Cleary's ashes. The urn felt to those who carried it like a sacred baby, a reborning of Bill's soul.

About two miles offshore of Hammond's and the Santa Barbara cemetery, the big boat slowed to a stately crawl, and the trim little sail boat tacked around the ceremony in the dimming light.

Scorched clean by burning, the ashes felt alive as a few of us plunged our hands in and flung them out to sea. Flowers and leis fell on the skin of the darkening waves. Omar scattered first, then Zoe, Mariella was too young, and her mom hugged her close, and then Barbara, Lori, Mary, Jim Fitzpatrick, George Van Noy, and many others all put Bill to his oceanic home.

Omar launched Bill's surfboard onto the small mounding waves, and alone and dignified, it sought and found the swell, gracefully angling towards nowhere in particular. You could almost see Bill, you could almost see the invisible, Bill and all the ancestors of surf marking the event. And you could definitely see the lone surfboard grieving, and yet soaring free of all the cares of a world lost, and a new world found. The surfboard left behind in the open sea, symbol of a life, and of its passage to the unknown, the lone surfboard finding its way to the infinite, marked the end of the ceremony, the memorial for Bill Cleary.

Bill's ashes were scattered at sea. Photo by John Van Hamersveld

Anne Fuchs, Mary Cleary, Jim Fitzpatrick, Woody Woodward and
John Clemens

photos by Rick Hodgson

Barbara Cleary (left); Mariella Cleary (right) Zoe Cleary and Lori Cleary (below right)

Omar Cleary

Mary Cleary


Old friend, Bob Garcia (above); Admiral of the Fleet, John Van Hamersveld and friends



George Van Noy's Tribute
To Bill Cleary

I keep wanting to pick up the phone and tell Bill all that's happened since he left. But he has been taken from us, and the wonder and mystery of his life is now one with the wonder and mystery of life itself forever. 

For 44 years Bill and I have been friends. Shortly after we met at UCLA he invited me down to his beach place at Topanga. I remember gazing with hunger at the cold blue Pacific that early spring of 1959. He said, go on, take a swim, there's a hot water shower right here at the edge of the sand. Next month, Bill, with his remarkable intuitive abilities, drove to Westwood and found me walking into a movie. He said, George, I want you to be my roommate. I couldn't believe it. I felt blessed. As Bill did too; he knew how lucky he was and we all were to live at Topanga. 

George Van Noy - photo Rick Hodgson

The magic of those Topanga Days has left a mark on all of us. The wonderful combination of the beach, the sea, the friends, those times made for a world who's music we still hear. 

Bill taught me and anyone who would listen his view of the sea; the indicators of what the waves were going to do. Would it glass off that evening? What to do out in the break when you were so nearsighted you couldn't see the waves, and yet had to predict where the peak would show. How to think about the wave patterns and their relationship with the sea bottom. How to make the surf safari. Great journeys looking for where the surf was that day. 

The great Canary Island adventure of 1962. The train ride from Zurich to Barcelona. The boat trip to Gran Canaria. Finding the most incredible right point break at a lovely small river mouth with 17 miles of giant sand dunes all to ourselves. We built a shack and made a life, and eventually word spread to as far as 2500 miles distant Paris. When we left, there was a colony of 30 little shacks and tents, a community. It had become popular, and as was Bill's wont, and mine, we left.

Through the years, we kept in touch; Bill loved to trade ideas and metaphors about writing and life. And so we did

He and I would try and top each other with crazy and mythical references to the events of our lives. We traded infatuations with various authors; we traded stories about our families, you know, the details of life, what makes it real.

Once again, near the end, I was Bill's roommate. Once again we traded stories, we laughed, we explored. But Bill was battling the monster of his disease. And this battle consumed him. I could only give him my presence, and I was dismal that I couldn't heal him. He was bemused that he was beset by this awful burden, but he wasn't bitter. Sure he was not happy about it. But he knew he'd had a great adventurous life, he knew he had great children, that he had and had had wonderful wives and women, and had wonderful friends.

Now he is gone, I don't know where. How can he be gone when I feel him near? When I hear him, see him, remember him well. Where is he? Perhaps gone to the great One from which words recoil. To that ONE within which we are so surrounded that names cannot capture it, ideas cannot master it, and words about it are useless. All that is left is love. Bill, take my love, take all our love, and journey on, soar with the immortals, soul surf in that great ring of endless light, in purity, joy and peace.

George Van Noy

George Van Noy, 2002 - All Rights Reserved

PhotoShop montage by Bill Cleary

Click for John Clemens' tribute
Additional photos and words will be added as they come in ...