Matt's father passed away early yesterday morning. He was eighty-four years old. He had been ill for some time, and for the past couple weeks we knew it was coming. He was adamant that he wanted to be home at the end of his life, and for almost two weeks, Matt, Viola and I have spent much of each day with him and Sandy. Knowing Bill, I am certain it meant everything that he had so much support and love from all six of his sons in these last weeks. Every day, his house has been full of family, and despite the sadness, much laughter and sentiment.
William Ralph Wertz was born on August 3rd, 1923 in Cambridge, MA. He was raised by his beloved mother Rose and her parents, and grew up on the tough streets of East Cambridge. At age 17, he enlisted in the Marines, and joined World War II. He was stationed in the South Pacific, and tells amazing stories of his time there. Despite his pride in the Marines and his service, he was witness to the many horrors of war, and the memories never left him. He married his sweetheart Gladys soon after he returned, and together they had four boys: William, Robert, Gerard, and Tom. When Tom was only five, Gladys passed away, and Bill became a single father. While working as a cab-driver in Cambridge a couple years later, he met another cabby, Sandy Sheridan. They married and later had two more sons, Christopher and Matthew. Bill was so proud of his six sons, who range in age from 30 to 58. He has five daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren: Billy, Kim, Gerry, Renee, Alyssa, Rylan, Tori, and Viola, and he became a great-grandfather in December when Baby Arianna was born.
There was no one like Bill. He was incredibly talented: he could tap dance, play the spoons and harmonica, loved to sing, and to draw and paint. He would create art anywhere. He would doodle on napkins, and scraps of paper at the track. Sandy said that back when they lived in Cambridge, he would draw on the walls, and his creations always amazed her. About fifteen years ago, not being able to smoke after surgery, he took to painting, and since has created many beautiful landscapes. Considering he hasn't left the house much in over a decade (besides trips to Stop & Shop and Suffolk Downs), it's amazing that he held these beautiful places in his head. He loved following Boston sports, and even more, the athletic pursuits of his talented sons. He was very proud of his Italian heritage, and honored it with food. He was an amazing cook; you would not be in the house for more than three minutes before he'd place a heaping plate of pasta and "gravy" in front of you. He was also very wily, tough, and well, "bad-ass" and had plenty of vices. He was a pool shark, a passionate gambler, and for sixty years, faithful to unfiltered Luckies. But he also had the biggest heart, and was constantly worrying about his family members, and whether we were eating enough, dressing warmly enough, and safe.
I have come to know Bill very well in the past six years, visiting him almost every day, and I know that he'd agree that we were great friends. Since she has visited him most every day of her little life, Viola has come to know and love her Papa very much; in fact, it was to him that she first said the words "la boo" (love you). I can't imagine their house without him singing and cursing and cooking. He meant so much to so many people, most notably his devoted wife and his six sons. His absence will be felt very strongly in our lives.
Like he always used to sing, using our names..."I wonder where Billy's gone, and how he's getting along. I wonder where my Billy's gone today..."
Calling hours will be on Tuesday, May 27th from 6-8 p.m. at the Graham Funeral Home, 3 Arlington Road in Woburn. A grave-side memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 28th at 11 a.m. at Mount Auburn Cemetary in Cambridge (Althaea Path). Following the service, everyone is welcome to join us for refreshments at our house, 17 Mishawum Road in Woburn.