William H. Selmeier

These are notes about what to write here.
I haven't figured it out, but I've got a couple decades in which to.

Maybe all that should be here are a couple of dozen photos of his life. One of him hangs on the wall near my desk as I write this. Below are a few others.

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Family lore can be so hit and miss. Once I happened to stumble on a photo of my uncle standing on the gunnel of a sailboat. I was doing some sketching at the time, so I sketched that. When my father saw the sketch he said, "Boy, I sure spent a lot of hours on that boat." I'd had no idea it would be recognizable from the sketch. I had no idea my father knew it that well. I didn't know he'd ever had been on it. I'd never seen a photo of it before. And I didn't learn anymore about it then other than that it had been in Chicago.

My uncle had gone to Chicago to work after college. Apparently my father (on the right in the boat) traveled to see him frequently. I found quite a few photos of the woman on the left. My Mom said Bill had been going to marry her at one time.

Photos that he took invariably are around water. His wife told me that he built a house on Long Lake in Bloomfiled Hills, Michigan because he said that since every weekend they were traveling to be someplace near water, why not  live on it? So he bought a lot and built what I generally consider to be the best house I ever experienced.

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A few facts about him:
When he was 15 years old he was 6'5" with a 28" waist.
He was the best high school student in Cincinnati setting records that were not broken for decades, including an attendance record. From Kindergarten through high school he never missed a day.
He was the third student body president of the four year college at Principia College.
During World War II officially he was in the Navy, but he stayed in the states making training films for the Navy while living as a civilian. He married the sister of my father's future wife during this period but would not take a honeymoon as long as his brother was overseas in the war.
For most of his adult life he worked for the Jamison Handy Company in Detroit.
He rarely knew how much he was making, but always knew a lot about philosophy and architecture and spent long hours in conversations about them.
He died young.

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Perhaps what I really should be writing is what he had to do to persuade an architect to design his house to hug the slope and orient itself toward the lake rather than fight the lot in a standard attempt to create curb appeal.

Or about the many hours he spent in his living room playing the Steinway parlor grand piano that he inherited from his parents.

Or about a woman years after he was gone telling me about when he was her Sunday school teacher when she was ten and he, who she referred to as the quiet giant, couldn't get his legs under the table.

Or about his paddling his canoe to the other end of the lake, where his good friends Jeff & Beth Carey lived, to have another hours-long discussion about philosophy or politics (before one of the Carey's sons drowned in the lake and Jeff Carey quit business, moved away, got his doctorate in philosophy and became a college professor at Principia College).

Or the sounds of the geese flying overhead as I sat in his study reading the fascinating books in his library as he swung in a hammock outside reading one himself.

Or about my cousin of the same name, William Paul Selmeier, who tells me that in every city in which he has lived, if there was name recognition, they asked if he is related to the Bill Selmeier who worked at Jam Handy in Detroit. Since that was about forty years ago, that's having made quite an impression.


We gave the "William H. Selmeier Literary Award" in his name to Principia College, his alma mater and also the alma mater of my father and (at least of the Principia Upper School) my brother and me. It is endowed so that every year a cash award is made to a student who has demonstrated outstanding literary ability. There also are a number of students, I think about 16, who get scholarships anonymously from our family.


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