I wish that I was writing this letter under happier circumstances, but then often time does not co-operate when it comes to matters of the heart. I'm glad to see that so many of you remember Bill Torrens with fondness, but then again, Bill was simply unforgettable.
Sometimes in life we are fortunate enough to meet people who alter our course or forever change us, even in the smallest of ways. Such a man was my friend Bill, and I'm a better person for having known him as I did.
Some of you might remember that I moved to England for a year, and during that time I met up with Bill and his wife, Barbara, on three separate occasions. These times were one of the highlights of my stay in England, and what started off as an 'internet relationship' which was originally forged through our mutal support of the Southern cause on CWT; quickly became a deep and lasting friendship. I'm lucky enough to consider Barbara a dear friend as well, and she is an amazing, wonderful woman.
On occasion Thea, Tommy, and I would try to tell our Fabulous Brit just how much he had come to mean to us. But Bill was never really comfortable with compliments or flattery, and he remains the most humble person I've known to date.
Bill has taught me many things, and one of them is how to say goodbye with dignity, humour and courage. During the last few years, when Bill had to endure horrific surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy. and private treatment towards the end, not once did my friend complain. Bill continued to post on the forums, no matter how ill he was feeling, and he did so in typical Torrens style - with patience, intelligence, and wit.
I met with Bill and Barbara in October and I knew then that this would probably be the last afternoon I spent with my friend. I was alarmed at the weight Bill had lost and it was apparent that each day was a struggle. But still Bill was optimistic and looked at his illness in a unique, philosophical way.
Neil, I'm sure you know how much you meant to Bill, and he often brought your name up in our conversations. He had the highest regard for you and Bill had always hoped to meet you one day. He loved to debate with you
and considered you a dear friend.
I'm not certain why the brightest lights seem to diminish long before their time, but I do know that Bill will always shine in my heart, and I will never forget his generous spirit, and love for the American Civil War.
Below is a sonnet that is a favourite work of Shakespeare, and it always comes to mind when I lose someone that I love.
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd, Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy contented least: Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee,--and then my state (Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate; For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.
Thank you for your kind words about Bill and thank you ever so much for passing on his comments about his feelings towards me. They mean so much.
I too, wish I had met Bill in person, as I am envious that you had that chance more than once. It is nice to know your observations of the man confirm for me what kind of a person I thought he was. Thank you for them.
I know that you, Thea, and Tommy are suffering right now and that the loss of Bill is rightly viewed by all of you as a devestating loss.
But remember, you all gave Bill the gift of friendship and love and that gift he took with him. He often mentioned you all in his emails to me and one could tell how much he enjoyed your messages and 'company.' He gave and you gave, and you are all the richer for it.
God bless you all and thank you again for your message, it helped greatly.
What an extremely sad loss of a man with so much to give and in the prime of his life, although I never got to meet him personally I felt that I knew him as a longtime friend and often exchanged the odd IM with him over the years on the various forums that he was a member of.
WOW!, My condolences to Bill Torrens Family and friends. When I frequented this board, Bill and I had some common ground immediately. He had mentioned that he was researching officers from the ANV and I asked him if he had heard of Captain David G. Houston. Not only had he heard of him, but he had information that I didn't, about Houston's fiancee. I bought a copy of Ms. Lucy Breckenridge's diary who was distantly related to an old friend of mine Roger Cary (of the Cary Cousin's fame.) I discovered that Lucy had sent Houston a Dear John letter about three weeks before he was KIA at Gettysburg.
There was a man with a a prodigious thirst for knowledge. He will be missed. This is like the second time I came to this board after a prolonged absense to hear of the death of an esteemed fellow board member (Remember Connie?) Oy!
Bill always expressed himself very well and was extremely knowledgeable about all things related to the Civil War, both the trivial (I know it was never easy to stump him with questions on the trivia game) and the non-trivial.
I've been away learning a new job and I just came upon this thread.
I was in England last November tending to the death of my mother-in-law. If I knew Bill's address, I would have taken some time to go visit. He lived up the road from my in-laws in Bicester, Oxfordshire.