Soda A Nice Thing To Do

One of my most often-read pieces on this blog had nothing to do with the writer and everything to do with the topic: the late photo-journalist Bill Strothman.

I met Bill in college at the University of Washington and I loosely stayed in touch over the years. Bill, his wife Nora and I were members of Bothell First Lutheran Church together. He worked at KOMO TV when I worked at KOMO radio.

You may not have known Bill personally, but all I have to say is “that KOMO photo-journalist who was killed earlier this year in that helicopter crash” and you know who I mean. But, for all the good deeds and amazing body of work Bill compiled during his days on earth, it would seem a shame to identify him by how it all ended.

And so it is, with a huge pile of gratitude that I’d like to thank the folks at Jones Soda for the tremendous salute they gave Bill. I love subtlety, and it was during the summer that Bill’s son, Dan, first pointed out that the folks at Jones Soda used an old photo of his dad on one of their sodas. Dan posted the picture they used on Facebook and it’s a free-spirited, hippie version of Bill, just as he began conquering the world. It turns out that one of Bill’s neighbors worked at Jones Soda and spear-headed the efforts to get him on the package. There, at the bottom of the packaging, a handwritten, “Bill Strothman…Bothell, Washington.”

I was in the Holman Road QFC the other day, when Dan posted on Facebook that he was lucky enough to nab the last “Bill” soda’s in his nearby Thriftway. That was a perfectly timed reminder for me to check QFC to see if they had any.

I headed straight to the soda aisle and, at first glance, it appeared I was out of luck. I began removing 4-packs and going deeper into the shelf until I found one. I felt like I had won the lottery!

Now I am a proud owner of a Bill Strothman pack of Jones Soda. I have placed it in a spot of honor in my office, surrounded by Husky memorabilia. It seems like a perfect fit.Bill Strothman

Most mornings, when I stumble downstairs to begin another day of writing, I look up and there’s hippie Bill, reminding me to make the most of this day and every day I’m lucky to still be around.

Good reminder, Bill. Very cool, Jones Soda.

Tim Hunter

If I Could, This Is What I Would Say

Nora & Bill

Nora & Bill

It’s scheduled for 3pm Saturday afternoon.  Bothell First Lutheran will be packed with friends, family, church-members and more as we celebrate the life of Bill Strothman.

Since his life ended several weeks ago, I’ve thought about him often.

Bill and I were close in age. I think he had a one year lead.  To me, his passing is yet another reminder that we should take nothing for granted.  Each day, every day, is a gift.  It could all be gone tomorrow.  But you don’t think of it that way, not that it could be over.  That’s the negative side of the equation. It’s that you are blessed to have what you have now, to be where you are, with all of your life experiences intact.

I’ve thought about, “What happens when we’re at Bill’s service and they say, ‘Would anyone like to say something?'”  I know what I would say, I’m just not sure I’d get it out.

I’ve known Bill & Nora Strothman a lot of years.  We go back to the University of Washington days, when we all Communications majors cutting our teeth on mass media at the same time.  We worked together on a student TV show called, “Speakout.” When Fridays rolled around and we finished taping another show, we’d go celebrate on “The Ave” at a place called The Pitcher House, which had a Happy Hour that featured $1 pitchers.

Bill, Nora and I attended the same church for quite a few years, Bothell First Lutheran, where his service will be held tomorrow.  We chatted often, but I would give anything to be able to hear those conversations again.  I just remember thinking how cool it was that, one day we were college buddies, and here we are, years later, raising kids together in the same church.

When I left the Bothell area, I didn’t see the Strothmans very often.  I made to include them at an open house at my Bothell home in 2007.  Occasionally, we’d bump into each other at the Bothell Freedom Festival parade on the 4th of July, where I’ve been the parade announcer for decades.  Come to think of it, I have copies of those parades and I just might have to dig them out and look for Bill.

We stayed in touch, but didn’t see each other often in recent years.  When I think of Bill Strothman in the years to come, and I will, it will be the Bill from the UW days….and the Bill I imagine the way he would be today.  His legacy was how he told a story.   So, as the events of the Oso mudslide tragedy are reported, I just can’t help but wonder: how would Bill have told this story?

Those who knew him also know the magnitude of the person we lost.   But we were also fortunate enough to know the caliber of the person he was.

While we mourn his passing, there was also an incredible life that requires that we celebrate and remember. No worries, Bill.  We’ll remember.

And if I could say all that at his service, I would. But I’m pretty sure I will not even come close.

At least now you know what I was thinking.

Tim Hunter

A Day of Sadness

I climbed in the car and began my short commute to work. It was a Tuesday, a day I usually swing by Starbucks and pick up something, but this morning I was running late.
As the car started, the reporter from KIRO was talking about Fisher Plaza. That was odd. It turned out that the channel 4 helicopter had crashed on Broad Street. Several cars passing by caught fire from the jet fuel that spilled, but the two occupants of the helicopter were dead.
Then I remembered that Dan Strothman worked there as a cameraman. Could he have been one of the two people on board?
Dan is the son of a college buddy, Bill Strothman, who wandered around the University of Washington in the mid-1970s along with me and the other Communications Majors.
Some of us concentrated on journalism, others on Radio & TV. Bill’s path and mine collided in the television side of things, back in the days when Channel 9 was on campus and once a week, students would produce a magazine-style show called, “Speakout!”
I probably should remember more details about the TV experience, but what I do recall are those Happy Hours after a shoot at the Pitcher House over on the Ave, with $1 pitchers. The perfect way to wrap up a Friday and head off into the weekend. The Speakout crew was made up of some very talented and determined folks who still run around Seattle today, including Bill and his girlfriend, eventually wife, Nora.
While our paths scattered and after graduation, I headed over to Yakima to play radio, Bill and his camera did quite well and became the go-to guy at KOMO TV. After a few decades of excellence, he decided to venture off and do his own thing as a freelance photographer. I had just exchanged a couple of emails with him a few months ago, hoping that some day we could work on a project together again.
To demonstrate that photographic skills can run in the family, Bill & Nora’s kid, Dan, grew up and followed his dad’s footsteps. There was even a time when Bill was still at KOMO, that Dan found himself working at a TV station in Montana, driving around the old KOMO 4 news truck that had been sold to that station.
Eventually, Dan found himself at his dad’s old stomping grounds, continuing the Strothman legacy. That’s why my heart sank when I first heard about the accident. I skipped the Starbucks run so I could get to work, check on Facebook and see if Dan had posted anything lately.
His Facebook page was a steady stream of “I’m so sorry” and “Our best to the KOMO family” and so I was relieved.  He was alive.  Dan was OK.
A short time later, I found out it was Bill on board.  Apparently, doing a little freelance work as he had hundreds of times before.  The regular KOMO chopper was in the shop, so they had a loaner from Boston.
Just like that. Here. Gone. No chance for a goodbye, other than the usual “See you tonight” as you head out the door.
Even though those days at the UW were 40 years ago, that special group of friends has remained in touch over the years. For a while, I attended Bothell First Lutheran Church with the Strothmans and other college friends, the Ensigns.
The last time I saw Bill? The last time I really had a chance to sit and chat would have been a summer barbecue at my new Bothell House in 2007. It was a perfect day and there were my college friends, just hanging out. The hair was a little grayer, there were more “character lines”, but it was that old gang of mine.
We should have had more of those get-togethers we always meant to organize. The longer you’re around, the reminders become more and more frequent.
Bill Strothman was a pro, a compassionate, caring father and husband and one of the greatest guys you’d ever have the chance to meet. You’ll hear that a lot over the next couple of days.  Anyone who knew Bill had only the best to say about him.
He was also a man of faith and I know that right now he’s experiencing his reward for a life well-lived. I look forward to the day I’ll see him again. Then maybe we’ll finally get around to working on that project together.
God’s peace to his wife Nora, and his kids, Dan and Heidi.

Tim Hunter