By Don Feigert
Herald Outdoors Columnist
RECENTLY MY younger brother Bill Feigert fulfilled a lifelong dream by traveling to Hawaii with five family members and running his first full marathon in an excellent time. That night he died of a heart attack at age 59. He was a loved one and very best friend to me and several others, a good friend to hundreds, and an enemy to no one. He had simple tastes, an easygoing manner, and the ability to make anyone laugh anywhere, anytime. He took pleasure in his family and the outdoors. He was an outdoorsman every day of his life.
From the days when he and his buddy Davey Shaffer were rascally 7-year-olds trailing older brothers Skip and me to the neighborhood pond, carrying all our bait and gear because that was the price to tag along, until a month ago, when he took three deer in one season, Billy devoted much of his time to hunting and fishing. Uncle Bud introduced him to crappie fishing at Pymatuning and took him out for trout at Uncle Jack’s Cottage in Venango County. On the stream he was a wanderer upstream and down, going it alone and avoiding the crowds. That was Billy, a solitary guy sometimes, especially in the outdoors, but the life of the party when it suited him. “I love beer,” he once said famously to a group of us at camp, including his wife Sandy. “I really love beer. I could marry beer — sorry Honey — because beer is my friend.”
Powser brought him into the family small game hunting tradition when he was 12, and he participated every fall Saturday with us for 20 years, never the best marksman but always the most likely to get off multiple shots. “The more times you shoot,” he told us repeatedly, “the better your chance of hitting the game!”
In our twenties, he and I took up deer hunting, and Skip, Dale, and Powser followed our lead. They always traveled to deer camp on Sunday, though, the day before the opener, while Billy and I left the Friday after Thanksgiving and hunkered down for the weekend at Uncle Jack’s, hunting small game, scouting for deer, and reading outdoor magazine after outdoor magazine, studying the best practices of whitetail pursuit and then trying them out in the forest.
In 1986 we founded F-Troop Camp in Warren County, and Billy became a charter member. His first deer season opening day there, he wandered up the mountain before daybreak and discovered F-Rock on the edge of steep ridge and bench. He killed a six-point there that first morning and another buck from the same rock on the following year’s opener. Billy or his son Billy, Junior (the F-Man), or somebody has hunted from that boulder every first day for a quarter of a century. Donna Rai and I and Brad and Todd and maybe Gary and Brett plan to travel up to camp next week and climb up to F-Rock to linger and remember.
When the F-Man was only the F-Kid, he and his Dad visited camp on frequent weekends with one of F-Kid’s buddies, such as Sluggo, the weakest hitting wiffle-ball player in camp history, Castaway, the wildest flinger of fishing line in Pennsylvania, or PigPen, who never touched a bar of soap that we ever witnessed and who was a pyromaniac at the campfire.
A few years later, Sandy’s daughter Amy made several trips and earned the camp name The Hillside Screamer for her constant loud chatter and boisterous laughter while telling tales at the fire. For the past several years, my brother’s primary companion to local ponds, rivers and lakes for bass outings has been Marty, Sandy’s son, who whispered “I lost my fishing buddy” at the services last week, and shook his head in wonder, knowing how valuable a true fishing friend can be.
We will all miss him, and the outdoors will miss him, too. He was an enthusiast in the woods and on the waterways. But he was more than that. His smile, his sense of humor, his laid-back demeanor put all those around him at ease. Any room he walked into, he lit up with his presence. He could laugh at you and laugh at himself and laugh at anything. He brought a hint of brightness into every life he touched. And now all of us who knew and loved him are less rich and our lives are drearier than they were a few short days ago.
The best and only thing you could say about Billy is: everybody loved him. Everybody loved him. I knew him for 59 years, and, if we ever had an argument, I don’t remember it. Billy had no time for something as stupid as arguments. He knew life was too short.
Last Tuesday after the funeral, several of us stopped down at the Jai Alai to toast my brother and listen to close friend Stephen McCarthy tell story after hilarious story about his life and times with Billy. That’s pretty much what we’re left with now: the memories.
Don Feigert is the outdoors writer for THE HERALD and the ALLIED NEWS. His latest book, The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, and his earlier books are available by contacting Don at 724-931-1699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Web site at www.donfeigert.com.