I am not sure if you heard Bill Sundeen passed away, quite suddenly,
on Sept. 18, 2012. I wanted to write something to honor him.
Bill and I had become very close friends over the last few years.
We started emailing after the reunion honoring Charlie and then after
Leather died we got even closer. Bill and Leather had been pretty
close since the Wrong Place years. Bill always looked up to Leather.
Leather sort of took him under his wing, and when Leather passed,
Bill and I became closer. Bill was witty and wrote wonderfully.
Leather and Bill remained pretty good friends through the years. Leather
trusted Bill and they wrote to each other while Leather was living
in France. Leather poured out his heart to Bill during some rough
times. Bill saved and cherished all of Leather’s letters. After
Leather passed, I knew Bill would be even more alone, so we started
talking on the phone every week or so. Even though Bill and I never
physically met, in some ways I think I knew Bill better than just
Bill told me about his growing up years in Lincoln, how he came from
a family of six kids where music was part of his life – how
his father was a music teacher. He told me about his time in New Orleans,
his alcoholism, and being sober for over twelve years. I knew his
ups and downs. I knew how much he adored Joel Wray, Charlie, Leather,
and others from the Wrong Place and how he wouldn’t have given
anything for those experiences and those memories.
The Wrong Place had an enormous impact on Bill. The Wrong Place, and
the people who were there were all magical to him. Bill was an innocent.
He was just a kid when he got to New Orleans; I could tell by the
stories he told and the way he told them. The New Orleans experience
and the Wrong Place crowd were all bigger than life and I think Bill
felt that way until the day he died.
After his time in New Orleans Bill went back to Lincoln and married,
played music, had a son, got divorced. I believe the only job he ever
had was music. He was in several bands through the years and stayed
close to a few of his old band mates. Music was a large part of his
life. Even when he was no longer playing in bands, he loved to listen
to music. He would stay up late sitting in his recliner with his head
phones on listening to old rock and roll. He also liked to go to coffee
houses in Lincoln and listen to the music, but then he told me he
felt odd because he was so old compared to the other people in the
Bill was the one of the kindest, most open people I have ever known.
He loved all his family and was very proud of their achievements.
I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. I really mean that
statement -- no exaggeration. He never blamed anyone for anything.
Nothing in his life was ever anyone else’s fault. He truly lived
in the here and now, cherished his friends, and appreciated every
kindness. He valued old letters and mementos from times past, and
is one of the few people I know who would still send a letter to someone
‘snail mail,’ signed, Your Friend, Bill Sundeen,
instead of texting or emailing.
Bill’s ability to take life as it came was a great inspiration
to me. Knowing him has made me a better person. Bill’s death
was a shock to all who knew him. I guess we all knew he had heart
problems, and looking back I now remember how during our last talk
he told me he was having a few dizzy spells.
There was a very strong connection between us; when I didn’t
hear from him for a week, I knew something must be wrong. I started
trying to call Bill and after a couple of days of not getting an answer,
I ferreted out the name of his landlord and called him. That is how
I got the news. Bill’s landlord found Bill lying on his kitchen
floor. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I can only
hope the end came very quickly and he felt no pain or loneliness.
I will never forget him and I am sure there are other people who feel
the same way. Sorry to write on such a sad occasion.