William "Bill" Thomas Foot, 53, died Friday, May 19, 2000 of cancer in Lynchburg. He was the beloved husband and best friend of Laurel Ibbotson Foot for 34 years and a member of First Presbyterian Church.
A long-time trail advocate and enthusiast, Bill and his wife thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1987 and were the first people to hike and bicycle the entire American Discovery Trail in 1997. He was a member of The Appalachian Trail Conference, The American Discovery Trail Society, Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, Central Virginia Mountain Bike Association and an honorary life member of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association. Recently, Bill saw the completion of his dream to have an Appalachian Trail Foot Bridge across the James River. The bridge is dedicated in honor of his vision and efforts in making it a reality.
Bill was born Aug. 3, 1946 in Akron, Ohio, the son of Cyril Hughes Foot and Eunice Walker Foot. He was retired from Framatome Technologies where he served as Manager of Facilities and Maintenance.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Michael Thomas Foot and his wife, Kristin Blais of Richmond; a daughter, Christine Marie Foot of Boston, Mass.; a sister, Roberta Foot Jackson of Delta, Pa.; and a grandson, Canyon Alexander Blais Foot.
As many of you know, my father loved attention and would have been pleased to see the crowd gathered here today. As many of you also know, he was a die-hard trail enthusiast and lover of life. He had many passions over the years that he threw himself into whole-heartedly. Everything he did, he did all the way. I'd like to list some of the ones that stand out in generally chronological order:
|As a young boy, he built his own ham radio and then would stay up at night tuning into stations from all over the world and recording what countries he had heard from in a big journal.|
|As he entered his teenage years, he spent a great deal of time in pool halls (no doubt to the chagrin of his parents). When he entered college, he continued to play and won several tournaments. Up until the end, he was infuriating to play with as he would not infrequently break and then run the table before I got to make a shot.|
|In college he got involved with motorcycle racing and won a mantle full of trophies (though he was always a little jealous that my mother's trophy from a motorcycle race was the tallest by about an inch).|
|My mom's brother introduced Dad to caving in college. For much of my childhood, he and I went on many caving weekends to West Virginia and Indiana. Due to his size and general exuberance, there were few situations that Dad felt he was incapable of handling. This was true for him, though less true for me, as I was still quite young and scrawny. To this day, my mom has only an inkling of what some of those trips were like.|
|He also spent many hours learning and playing bluegrass banjo with a good friend of his. To this day, whenever I hear "Cripple Creek" or "Old Joe Clark", I immediately think of this time.|
|He then took up flying and earned his pilot's license. He prudently gave up this sport after he crashed one plane and another was totaled by a tornado just minutes after we touched down.|
|My mom and dad then decided they might like to get into backpacking. A year later, they had taken leaves of absence from their jobs and spent five months hiking the entire Appalachian Trial. Invigorated by their experience, they devoted countless hours working on and advocating for the trail.|
|They then decided that they might like to do some mountain biking. Of course, biking around the area would not do for my father. So . . . they decided to be the first people to cross the country on the American Discovery Trial. After 6 months and 5,000 miles of biking and backpacking, they had ridden from Delaware to California, making friends along the way.|
|Despite all these interests, however, his overwhelming passion was for his family and his friends. He meant more to me than I can say and I will miss him for the rest of my life.|
For anyone looking to honor my father's life, I can think of no better way than to enjoy your own. Pursue your passions, honor your dreams, and cherish those around you. Live your life so that whenever you die, you'll be able to look back with satisfaction and think "I have lived my life."
I would also like to tell one story about a caving trip we went on when I was a teenager. When you're in a cave, the route isn't always clearly marked. Being the smallest, it was frequently my responsibility to crawl into tiny little holes to see if it "goes." On a trip to a cave called Hell Hole, Dad and I went to the very end of the cave where the mud floor rises to meet the ceiling. However, there had recently been a huge flood and there was a small hole where the end normally was. "See if it goes, Mick" was my dad's inevitable instruction. Somewhat grudgingly I slithered in, half-hoping to see it dead end. However, it kept going on like that. 50 yards in, I was starting to get a little nervous as the passage was so small that if it did stop there was no room to turn around and I was going to have to back out the entire way. "It's getting pretty small, I'm not sure how much further I can go" I yelled back, face inches from the packed mud floor. "See if it goes" Dad said predictably. I kept going 100 yards, then 150. Seeing how deeply I was in at this point, Dad decided to follow. After about a quarter mile of crawling/slithering, the passage opened a up little and then a little more and then we were able to stand up and look around. We were in a small room that human eyes had never seen. Off of this room was a booming passage that stretched into the blackness. We had stumbled into one of the biggest sections of virgin cave to be found in West Virginia in years. My father was beside himself with excitement. We decided to head back out to meet up with friends in the other part of the cave. As we approached his friends, Dad began yelling until he was hoarse. He and others came back to the cave on subsequent weekends and eventually mapped several miles of new passage in that section.
I've read that when people have near-death experiences, they often describe being in a long tunnel. I think Dad's years of caving prepared him well for this journey. I can picture him reaching the end of that tunnel and shouting back to the rest of us "IT GOES!"