Bill began his days with gratitude in his heart. For 37 years, he called Castle Valley home and believed it was the most beautiful place on earth. Mindful of his good fortune, he happily volunteered his time to help others and to give back to the world. His kindness, compassion, quick wit and sunny attitude lifted many spirits, and filled the world with a special joy and happiness.
Born Oct. 25, 1953 in Chicago to William Richard (Dick) and Arlene Schroeder, Bill spent his childhood growing up on Baron Lake in southwestern Michigan, living every boy’s dream of endless swimming, fishing, exploring woods, building forts, playing sports and raising mischievous hell. Those early years of autonomy and exploring the natural world profoundly influenced his perspective on life.
The family moved to Chicago in the mid-1960s during the rise of the counterculture hippie movement and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Bill’s first job was in a record store in Chicago’s hip Old Town neighborhood, the bustling heart of the anti-war, anti-materialist youth movement in the Midwest. Working at the record store not only gave him access to the best music of his times, it also exposed him to scores of bohemian hippies with their message of peace and love. As a teenager, he embraced the hippie values of simple living, peace, love, harmony, freedom and building community, and held those beliefs throughout his lifetime. A lifelong Cubs fan, he was thrilled last year when they finally won the World Series, and he was still alive to see it.
After graduating from high school, he served a short stint in the Army at the end of the Vietnam War before heading out West. In 1974, he joined a commune in Keenesburg, Colo., and spent the next five years at the Sunshine Daydreams Farm as a consummate flower child, living in harmony with nature, practicing free love, artistic expression and traveling with droves of friends across America to Grateful Dead festivals. On a road trip to a concert, he passed through Moab, and less than a year later, in the spring of 1980, he relocated to Castle Valley and began a 15-year career as a legendary river guide.
After moving to Castle Valley, Bill married Judith Curtis and welcomed the birth of his son, William R. (Gomez) Schroeder, III, the following year. They enjoyed an adventurous, fun life together hiking and floating down the river with friends. They later divorced. In the late 1990s Bill hung up his oars and went mainstream, working first as a shipping clerk, and later as a carpenter. When he wasn’t working, Bill’s passion was hiking the canyons and washes of greater Canyonlands. He found solace and regeneration wandering around the desert in communion with ancient spirits. He could hike from dawn to dusk and never tire. If he wasn’t hiking in his free time, you might find him at the golf course playing a round with a few close friends. He lived the dream.
Bill was a very private person, quiet, somewhat shy, yet he was an active member in Moab Community Theater for over 20 years. In his debut performance in 1986, Bill was cast as Simon Gascoyne in “The Real Inspector Hound.” A few other plays include “Lone Star” in 1987 by Kiffmeyer, Kiffmeyer and Schroeder. In 1999, he played a Texas oilman in “Introductions and Goodbyes” (an operetta), and in 2000, he played Peach Schmendiman in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” followed by a star role as Rob Petri (Dick VanDyke) in the 2006 production of “Plural Ives.” He became such an enthusiastic actor and disciplined study, roles were written with him in mind. Quiet and reserved in everyday life, he blossomed on stage in whatever role he played.
In 1997, after unrelenting coaxing by friends, Bill decided to share his lifetime collection of music with the community in a new role as DJ “Bill on the Hill” on KZMU community radio. For 20 years on alternate Friday afternoons, he hosted “Fire on the Mountain,” a popular three-hour show dedicated to the music of the Grateful Dead. He also co-hosted “Tilted Park,” a Wednesday morning show featuring a collection of all genres of music except the Dead. Even after cancer took his voice, Bill refused to give up, and enlisted his wife, Elaine, to be his on-air voice. With her help, he continued to sit in his DJ chair for another eight months, bringing friends and family together through a shared love of music.
Bill met his current wife Elaine in 2005, and they fell madly in love. A shared enthusiasm for hiking brought them together, and they traversed hundreds of miles of desert landscape while laughing, loving and rejoicing in their good luck. After 12 years of courtship, they married in a private ceremony at their home in Castle Valley this summer.
He is survived by his spouse, Elaine; his stepchildren, Cari, Jenny and Charlie Pinkowski and their spouses; five grandchildren, Georgia, Maxine, Sophia, Ronan, Finn; his mother, Arlene Schroeder of Chicago; his siblings, Steven (Danute) Schroeder, Susan Schroeder, Linda (Bryan) Kohles; by nine nieces and nephews and their spouses, and one great-niece. He is preceded in death by his son, William R. (Gomez) Schroeder, III in 2012; and father, William R. (Dick) Schroeder, in 2017.
Bill’s memorial will be next summer, a two-day gathering and celebration honoring his memory by doing all the things he enjoyed, potlucks, river rafting, hiking, golfing and playing music, lots of music and sharing stories about his magical life. A notice on dates will be forthcoming.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.spanishvalleymortuary.com