Joanna Yorke, Reporter
BATTLE GROUND — As Brenda Alling, wife of late Battle Ground City Council Member Bill Ganley, addressed the crowd of about 300 community members who gathered at the Battle Ground Community Center to celebrate Ganley’s life Sunday afternoon, she almost instantly had everyone in the room laughing or smiling as she told the story of how the two first met.
“I first met Bill back in 1985 when I was a student in his (history) class,” Alling laughed. “Yep, I married my high school history teacher.”
Several hundred people sat or stood in the Lewis River Room of the community center to honor and celebrate Ganley’s life. Ganley, 57, died Nov. 26 after battling carcinoid cancer for eight years. Although there were no dry eyes in the room during the almost two-hour event, there were also plenty of laughs as a few of the people who knew Ganley well told stories illustrating his many quirky personality traits.
“I met Bill again years later on Match.com,” Alling said as she continued to relay the story of how the two eventually became husband and wife. “He ‘winked’ at me, not a very bold move. I didn’t do anything for a while, but then I kept thinking that he obviously had to remember me (from his class), so I wrote to him and had him running for his yearbook because he did not remember me at all. We finally agreed to meet for a drink and the first thing he said to me when we met and he shook my hand was, ‘I generally keep these kinds of meetings to 30 minutes.’”
Luckily, Ganley and Alling continued their first outing together well past 30 minutes and, after three years of courtship, the two were engaged on Dec. 26, 2009. The very next day, however, Ganley found out that he had a 13-inch, six-pound tumor in his abdomen and was forced to undergo life-threatening surgery. This was the day his long battle with cancer first started.
As Ganley recovered from his first surgery, his doctor told Alling that he appeared to have kidney cancer that had spread to other parts of his body. The doctor told her that Ganley probably only had about six months to live, but asked her to keep the information to herself until he had recovered from his surgery. Finally, Alling and Ganley met with the doctor, who informed them that Ganley had carcinoid cancer, a rare form of cancer that consists of numerous slow-growing tumors throughout the body. Although this cancer is not curable, it is treatable and can be somewhat managed.
In October of 2010, Ganley and Alling were married, and Alling, her 16-year-old son Austin and their dog moved in to Ganley’s house.
Alling continued to walk everyone who was in attendance Sunday through the next several years of Ganley’s constant struggle with his cancer. As the years went by, tumors continued to keep popping up all over Ganley’s body and eventually began forming on his brain. He went through two different brain surgeries to remove the tumors, but those surgeries took a lot out of him. After struggling with putting Ganley in a rehab facility and bringing him home to try and care for him, Alling said she then made the “hardest, most heartbreaking decision I’ve ever made in my life” when she moved Ganley into a care facility.
After moving him to the Ray Hickey Hospice House in November to assess his pain management, Ganley passed away only a couple of short days later.
“I’m so sad because I lost my husband, but I’m so relieved because he is no longer suffering,” Alling said.
Chaplain Landis Epp officiated Ganley’s Celebration of Life, briefly going through the accomplishments and events that Ganley experienced over the years.
“Whenever I saw Bill, I always first saw that little smile that he gave you,” Epp said. “Every time I saw that, I always wondered what he had up his sleeve.”
Paul Bardzik, who knew Ganley well having worked with him at Summit View High School, spoke about visiting Ganley’s class at the school and how his class was always so exciting and he never had any discipline problems because “everyone respected Bill Ganley.”
“What really counts in your life? What’s really important?” Bardzik said. “Bill Ganley can look back and know that he literally touched the future and made an impact on kids’ lives today. Bill is just a great man, and we’ll all see him later on.”
Council Member Shane Bowman also took a turn to speak about Ganley Sunday afternoon, at times needing to stop and collect himself as emotion took over as he spoke of Ganley and their friendship. Bowman talked about running against Ganley for a council position years ago, laughing as he recalled that Ganley “beat him pretty bad.” When Bowman ran for council again and was elected and made deputy mayor, it was Ganley who immediately offered Bowman his counsel.
“Bill became friends with me, I think, because he was thinking to himself, ‘this moron is going to become deputy mayor, I need to teach him a lot,’” Bowman joked. “We talked almost every day. Later I became mayor, and Bill was my rock, my person.”
“To me, his greatest attribute was, Bill had a willingness to serve,” Bowman continued. “It didn’t matter if it was kids, the city, volunteering. If didn’t matter what it was. He always cared about his community and how he could make it better. He was very giving of his time, talents and resources. Gandhi said: ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ If we all as a group who loved Bill could all go out and serve, imagine what a legacy that would leave.”
The last person to speak about Ganley Sunday afternoon was former Battle Ground mayor and community member John Idsinga. Idsinga recalled that his most recent fond memory of Ganley was when he went to visit Ganley at the care facility that he was living in and took him to Wendy’s for lunch.
“He had a blast and he ate his whole hamburger,” Idsinga said.
Idsinga said Ganley was an amazing guy, describing him as having a passion for everything he did. He said Ganley was a mentor to many people and inspired others to learn.
“He was a leader among men,” Idsinga said. “Bill fought the fight, he fought every fight to the end and he will be missed.”
Ganley’s Celebration of Life was brought to a close with a few minutes of a video that was made with Ganley a few months ago. In it, Ganley encourages young people to go out and get involved, volunteer and “figure out what you want to do in life.”
“Get involved,” Ganley said in the video. “Go. Getting involved puts you in touch with people. Listen to older people. Help someone. That’s the best thing you can do. Give up something to help another person or community.”
Scholarship established in honor of Bill Ganley
Battle Ground High School alumni have established a scholarship to honor Bill Ganley. Ganley was a long-time Battle Ground and Summit View High School teacher, coach, city of Battle Ground council member and mayor, and a firefighter at heart.
In the spirit of Ganley’s service, the scholarships will be awarded to Battle Ground High School and Summit View High School seniors who desire to serve as an educator or in public service.
A goal of raising $50,000 will continually fund two $1,000 scholarships annually. Funds raised beyond $50,000 would be dedicated to the local fire and emergency services, as well as local community outreach and service programs.
Tax-deductible donations in honor of Bill Ganley’s life of integrity, dedication and service can be made to: Battle Ground Education Foundation, P.O. Box 2574, Battle Ground, WA 98604, or http://www.bgef.org/donate. Please indicate “Bill Ganley Scholarship” on your donation.
For additional information, contact Karstan Yauchzee at firstname.lastname@example.org.