“He fought the good fight; he finished the course.” But, on Sept. 15, after overtime, extra innings, or even a bonus match, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and coach was called home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
William “Bill” Gauer Jr. was born on Aug. 19, 1936, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to William Sr. and Georgina Gauer, along with older brother Stanley. Like several generations before him, he enjoyed the island lifestyle of living in the United States territory long before Waikiki Beach became a tourist destination. He had a fondness for much of the local foods that he eventually passed on to his family and could speak “Pigeon-English” with the best. Although Bill was only 4 at the time, he had very clear memories of Dec. 7, 1941, and how the attack on Pearl Harbor changed his family dynamics for months to come. He attended St. Louis School in Honolulu from kindergarten through 12th grade. It was during this time that he developed his great passion for sports, especially football and volleyball, that he frequently played the island way — barefoot! Upon high school graduation, Bill put on his shoes and left the islands forever to begin a new chapter of life.
At the age of 18, and in a total turn of locations, Bill landed in Coquille, Oregon, to spend a summer working on an uncle’s ranch. Although the memories were good, it was apparent that he was not meant for a career of farm work. Life has a way of finding unusual twists of fate. Bill’s short stop in Coquille included a blind date with Rosalie Howanic, the girl who would become his forever ‘sweetheart.' In the fall of that year, he began his continuing education experience at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. That was short-lived, however, when he transferred to Monmouth and the Oregon College of Education. Coincidentally, it was the same school that Rosalie was attending. His college memories included good friends, card games and fun times. The four years culminated with Bill earning his bachelor’s degree in secondary education; the first in his family to do so and an example that was set for his children and grandchildren to come. Not only did he receive an education but he also chose a wife. Bill and Rosalie were married Aug. 14, 1958. A union that lasted 63 years! The graduation ceremony was soon followed by the birth of their first child, Lauri. The Gauer's received their first teaching assignments at that time. A new chapter was to begin.
Roseburg, Oregon became home, and a son, Larry, was welcomed. Bill began teaching at Joseph Lane Jr. High, where he taught English and Geography to 7th graders. It was a tenure that would last 35 years, touching the hearts and shaping the lives of children in numbers untold. It was also during this time that Bill’s love of sports was most evident. He spent evenings and weekends throughout Douglas County (and beyond) refereeing high school basketball games followed by summers umpiring baseball and softball. For 20 years he was on the sidelines of every Roseburg High football game as a volunteer member of the “chain gang”. Then began his coaching career. Coach Gauer led girls’ volleyball programs at Roseburg, Marshfield, Oakland, and Yoncalla high schools. He was known for his love of the game and a fierce desire to teach the skills and expect hard work and play. Bill continued coaching even after he retired from the classroom. When he wasn’t in the gym, he and Rosalie enjoyed various hobbies together. On the top of the list was an interest in antiques, especially old American clocks. Their curiosities took them far and wide in search of the unusual and unique.
The final chapters of Bill’s life began with an onset of health issues. He had a healthy body with a weakened heart. He experienced numerous hospitalizations and procedures with little resolve. As a measure of last resort, doctors advised an evaluation at OHSU in Portland where he was deemed a candidate to receive an LVAD. A small device was placed near his heart to assist the left side of the heart in pumping blood sufficiently. This is an apparatus that is generally saved for patients waiting for a heart transplant. At the time, Bill was the oldest person to receive an LVAD at OHSU. We believe he is also the longest surviving patient to live with an LVAD. Coach Gauer had entered into his “extra innings”! He received nearly 11 years of quality living that was not expected. These bonus years allowed him to travel, garden and spend time with family. At the age of 85, complications associated with the LVAD took his life. He died peacefully at home surrounded by those he loved. Game...Set...Match...VICTORY!
He will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 63 years, Rosalie; children: Lauri (Ed) and Larry (Bonnie); grandchildren Beau, Corey and Gillian; great-grandchildren Evelyn, Vivienne, Capri and Cannon. A rosary and mass will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 12 p.m. in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, followed by a private burial at Roseburg Memorial Gardens. A dinner and celebration of life will be held for family and friends at the Riversdale Grange on Friday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.