Bill Reed passed in early December. It had been a 15 year struggle with cancer and whilst he coped brilliantly then eventually it called time. I had known him over 55 years. He must have been my oldest friend. In fact so many of my passions and values came from him that I owe him an incalculable debt. He came into my life as my sister’s boyfriend in the early 1960s. Our own relationship started in earnest in 1965 when he sat me on his shoulders in The Scratching Shed at Elland Road and started my life long love affair with Leeds United. From here he married, my sister, Ann Marie, and formally became part of my life. Always true, always completely trustworthy, always a friend, always fun and forever one of our family despite an eventual divorce.
He lived in Leeds and we met whether at Elland Road, at our house, mutual friends or his flat. It’s impossible to list how we shared many amazing times together. A few included a Christmas morning where a present of a football was wrapped, beneath the paper, in chicken wire with bags of grit in the package to give it a very odd noise when you rattled it. I think it must have taken me ages to open it! Next was getting a call from my housemaster at boarding school when I was 17 years old saying that the next day I’d be going to The FA Cup Final (Leeds vs Arsenal). What an unexpected thrill. Other expeditions included finding his uncle’s WW1 grave in Northern France as we ventured abroad seeking his location. All these trips had hilarious moments and great camaraderie. Bill was my Best Man and that included a Stag Night dinner at The Flying Pizza in Leeds where unsurprisingly I drank way too much!
Throughout his life Bill liked to read and was passionate about sports but not many other hobbies. He worked until he was 67. It was people and their company he cherished. I can hardly remember Bill not working and the farmers or work colleagues, who I hardly met, loomed large in my life. Their legend was chronicled through stories of boozy lunches and foreign trips. If that was one set of friendships then he adored his grandsons. Also he would be delighted at a chance meeting in the street with, say, a waiter he used to know at a local restaurant. Everyone who came into contact with him found a positive and welcoming man with such a joie de vivre. He truly was loved.
Latterly he’d come to stay with Anna and me. This would entailed a hearty meal and either some cricket or football on the TV. It’s some time since I saw him take a drink but he was a knowledgeable connoisseur when it came to the grape and usually had a bottle in the boot of the car.
We’ll drink to his memory as we say our final farewell on January 10th.