ELKHART — Bill Darwin’s friends and family said one last goodbye to the man who became a local celebrity through 40 years of work as a radio host in Elkhart County.
Darwin was 80 when he died Wednesday, May 7, in South Bend. His funeral was held Tuesday, May 13, at Faith United Methodist Church in Elkhart. His wife, children and many of those who worked alongside Darwin attended the ceremony.
They shared stories that helped give an idea of Darwin’s witty sense of humor and his legitimate love for the community.
“For one thing, I learned that he would not have wanted all the attention that has been payed to him in the last couple of days,” Pastor John Hogsett said during the service Tuesday morning.
Hogsett added that Darwin’s mission in this world seemed to be to make people smile.
“He loved to entertain,” he said. “I don’t think it was an accident. I think God created Bill to bring joy to other people’s lives.”
Hogsett noted that Darwin was not just a beloved local celebrity, but also a loving father and husband. Darwin, Hogsett said, found creative ways to teach valuable lessons to his children.
“He gave them opportunities to learn to be self-sufficient and to be responsible human beings,” he said, adding half-jokingly that “if you wanted a funeral for the dead dog you found on the road that was as flat as a pancake, you had to dig the grave.”
Hogsett also read comments online from people who knew Darwin and then passed the microphone around for Darwin’s family and friends to trade stories.
Allen Strike, who worked alongside Darwin for 42 years at WTRC 1340 Radio, shared a few stories of himself and Darwin.
“We couldn’t tell when he had a bad day, but you can’t lose a son, Chris, and not have a bad day. You can’t have your spouse diagnosed with cancer not once, but multiple times, and not have a bad day,” he said. “He was human, after all. Bill had bad days, but he never let it affect his date with the public.”
Others in the audience stood up and talked about how “you entered into the studio and the show as a friend, but you left as a friend or family,” according to Linda Skinner, who worked as a producer in Darwin’s morning show, AM Michiana.
Skinner talked about the lengths Darwin and his family would go to to make her smile. Other friends, who knew Darwin as Uncle Bill, told similar stories.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Mark Vilmure, Darwin’s son, thanked the audience and the community for their support in recent days.
“When we say he was one of the best fathers ever, that’s exactly what we mean,” he said. “I just want to say thank you. He’s going to be greatly missed.”
Guests at the ceremony included Elkhart City councilman David Henke, president/CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Kyle Hannon, and Elkhart City Parks and Recreation Department superintendent Karin Frey.