Bill McDougal
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Bill McDougal

Written by Rick Archer
January 2013

On January 22, 2013, my friend Bill McDougal passed over to the Hidden Side of Life.

I would like to tell the story of my friendship with Bill and his wife Ann.

Although I have only known Bill and Ann for six months, I feel like I have known them for a lifetime. I knew them first as dance students.  In July 2012, Bill and Ann showed up for my Synchronized Polka class.  I could not help but be impressed.  For two people in their early 70s, they were so full of energy!  On the spot they became my friends.

Here is a picture of Ann and Bill from the Chandelier Ballroom in early January 2012.  They are getting ready to dance the Polka to the River Road Boys.  That black bag is a diabetes kit.  Bill spent his entire life proving Type 1 diabetes could be overcome.

Ann is truly one of the most vivacious women I have ever met in my life.  Ann is so powerful and positive that I could not help but be drawn to her.  I love her sense of humor! 

Throughout our first dance class, Ann tickled me with one funny comment after another.  She teased Bill the entire 90 minutes with a running commentary on his progress. 

Mind you, her teasing is always sweet and done with a smile on her face.  That said, it was a good thing that Bill was so good natured because Ann never missed anything he did wrong.

A Powerful Relationship

Despite all the good-natured ribbing Bill took, I had the impression that Ann was incredibly supportive.  It didn't take me long to figure out that Bill actually enjoyed his wife's constant fussing because he knew it was her way of showing her love.  To Bill, Ann's comments weren't criticism, but rather more a form of coaching and encouragement.

Bill wanted to master the Polka to impress and please his wife.  I got the feeling that Bill was enjoying having a new challenge in his life.  A highly intelligent man, Bill found learning to dance could be just as tricky as an intricate puzzle.  Most of all, I think Bill enjoyed taking on a challenge that his wife could participate in.  I think Bill understood how much fun Ann had on the dance floor, so he had a powerful desire to make dancing together as pleasurable as he possibly could.  Dancing became a new and very special way to show his love to his wife.

I know these things because I watched them both carefully.  As a dance teacher, more often than not I see people who are recently divorced and totally convinced the ideal of a lifetime of love between a man and a woman is a total myth.  For all the cynicism in the world, Ann and Bill stood as shining testimony to the power of love in a lasting marriage. 

I quickly realized how powerful their relationship is.  Ann always looked out for Bill.  There was no doubt in his mind that Ann was right by his side at all times.  Bill was calm, steady, and easy-going.  He was very confident, yet so modest I had no idea of Bill's many lifetime accomplishments.  From what I gather, Bill was a highly respected veterinarian who became president of several professional organizations. 

Another accomplishment I was unaware of was Bill's lifetime fight against Type 1 diabetes.  A doctor friend of mine said it is a "miracle" for a man to survive into his seventies with such a serious medical problem.  She added most men with similar problems consider themselves fortunate to make it to 50.  The doctor concluded that Bill's uncanny self-discipline and his own medical background allowed him to beat the long odds.  Adding twenty years to his life span was remarkable.

It was my impression that Bill was an anchor of sorts to Ann.  Bill made Ann so content and happy that she in turn wanted to share her happiness with as many people as humanly possible.  His strength allowed Ann to become a marvelous social dynamo.  I noticed how Ann loved to go from person to person sharing her warmth, and then she would always return to Bill to recharge her battery.

Bill's Strong Desire to Learn

I have a hunch that Ann knew how to encourage Bill to constantly grow as a human being in small ways and big ways.  Ann definitely knew how to keep her husband on his toes in dance class!  Ann used an intricate mixture of praise and razzing to let him know she was both appreciative and expectant.   And it worked.  For a man who is in his seventies, Bill was very good at his dancing to begin with.  However it was his work ethic that I appreciated the most.  Bill worked harder than any man I have ever met to learn the steps.

Once Bill got the hang of a pattern, he would write a note down to help him remember it later. 

Naturally I was intrigued, so I asked Ann about Bill's note-taking.  Ann said he takes his dancing very seriously.  She said whenever he gets home, Bill transfers his notes to his computer.  I nodded my approval.  Taking notes is a powerful aid to the memory in dancing, but transferring them a second time to the computer really helps to lock in the material.  I could see he took a far deeper approach to learning to dance than most men.  I had a hunch this had been his style throughout his life.

The extra study paid off.  Not surprisingly, Bill would always ace the review I would conduct in each following week.  Combined with his alert mind, his note-taking allowed him to absorb material at an impressive clip.

Meanwhile, Ann was delighted to discover that she and I were kindred spirits.  We both like to tease, so I quickly became her partner in crime.  Together we would gang up on Bill.  Each week in dance class Ann would find some opportunity to set him up and let me finish him off.

Ann began writing me frequent notes about his progress.  I don't think Ann will mind if I share her commentary.

"Hey Rick, Yesterday was fun. These basic fundamentals are really helping us. Thank you so much. Bill asked me to remind you to bring the print out for the polka steps. See you tonight. Ann"

So I emailed Ann the entire syllabus.

"Thank you so much for the syllabus.  Bill and I have had lessons before, and have been working on it, but these basics are great.  You are such a good teacher!!  Ann"

After Synchronized Polka, Bill and Ann moved on to Western Swing with its tricky Double Turns.  I was impressed with how well Ann did with the double turns. She picked them up quickly, so I complimented her.  Ann told me that she had been an athlete all her life... golf, tennis, etc.  Dancing was a natural extension of her love of sports.

An Odd Way to Begin a Friendship

As I felt more comfortable with Bill and Ann, our relationship entered a new dimension - I began dancing with Bill!

Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me explain.  Teaching men how to lead isn't the easiest thing.  No matter how much I demonstrate and tell the men what to do, at some point there is a "feel" to leads.  If something is wrong, I may not be sure what it is just by watching.  So the fastest way to figure out any flaw in technique is to dance as a "Follow" for 30 seconds or so and see what the lead feels like.  I can usually diagnose what is wrong on the spot and find a way to correct it. 

However, due to societal prohibitions about men dancing together, some men are very reluctant to participate.  Typically, the men who are the most motivated to improve are also the ones most accepting of this unusual maneuver.  Bill fit into this group.  To Bill's credit, he wasn't too sure about this idea, but he was willing to trust me if I thought it would help.  He was surprised to see me immediately spot his mistake and offer a quick solution.  Bill was sold on my unusual technique.  From this point on, we might dance for 20 seconds or so once or twice a night.  Thanks to his trust, I was able to help him improve rapidly. 

There was only one problem - Ann was greatly amused.  She grinned from ear to ear watching poor Bill recover from the shock of dancing with a man.  She teased both of us endlessly for the rest of the class.  Ann's favorite ploy was to call me over whenever a move wasn't working.  "Hey Rick, Bill isn't doing it right!  He wants to dance with you.  Come over here and fix him!" 

Bill would roll his eyes, I would grin, and we would dance while Ann howled with glee.  Ann was such a trouble maker!  But she was also a sweetheart.  Ann made every dance class an adventure for everyone. 

"Rick, Thank you so much for taking care of Bill yesterday. He had a ball and told me to email you for another list of the dance steps. See you tonight.  Be sure you don't let Bill make any mistakes!  Ann"


The Rivalry

Bill and Ann's next class was Three Step.  There is a range of Western music where the Polkas are too fast and the Twosteps are too slow.  Music between 130-150 beats per minute can be very tricky to dance to.  Think Lying Eyes by the Eagles. 

One day I noticed that certain Foxtrot patterns worked just fine to this speed range.  Curious, I played a Western song and discovered that three step Foxtrot patterns could be easily adapted to Western dancing.  I told Ann and Bill I was going to teach an experimental course in the "Threestep" and asked them if they wanted to give it a try.  Sure! 

To their delight, the patterns indeed worked like a charm to music that previously had been difficult to dance to.  Soon after the class started, I got a sweet thank you note from Ann.  

"Rick, We went to the Wild West last night with Avants, Hrncirs and Hudsons.  This song came up and they all said this is too slow, well Bill said come on and we did our three step.  Bill got A+ while those other boys just sat on their behinds!!  Ann"

Ann's wicked potshot referred to a splendid rivalry that had developed between Bill and Ann and their close friends Larry and Bette Avant. 

Bill and Ann started dancing a few years ago when their son BJ invited them to join a dance class at their church, Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  John Williamson was their teacher.  John introduced Bill and Ann to Ballroom dancing and encouraged them to go dancing with him at Chandelier Ballroom on occasional Saturday nights.

Like everything else, Bill doesn't do anything halfway.  Pretty soon he was hooked.  He saw how much Ann liked to dance with him, so he determined he needed to get better at this dancing stuff.  The next thing Ann knew, she and Bill were taking Ballroom classes, Hustle classes, and Western classes two and three nights a week. 

Naturally Ann told her friend Bette Avant about the dancing.  Bette and Ann had met through tennis back in the Seventies and became best friends.  Throughout the next thirty years, both ladies stayed very close.  When Bette discovered their new hobby, she was really pleased.  Bette had been trying to talk Ann into taking dancing lessons for years. 

Now that Bill was a dancer, the two ladies suggested their husbands take them dancing at the Petroleum Club downtown.  Naturally since Larry and Bette had a head start in dancing, they were much more comfortable out on the dance floor.  Both Bill and Ann are competitive by nature, so one look at Larry and Bette was all it took.  Bill and Ann nodded to each other.  "We're going to catch those guys!"

One day Bette let it slip that she and Larry had been taking private lessons from me.  Ann was immediately outraged.  No fair!  With all that extra coaching, how were she and Bill going to catch up with Larry and Bette now?  That gave Ann an idea.  So Ann asked Bette about me and got my email address.  Ann had decided to fight fire with fire, so she contacted me about lessons. 

Almost from the moment Ann and Bill showed up in my dance class back in July 2012 for the first time, Ann made it clear she expected me to make Bill so wonderful that he would make Larry envious.  Mind you, this was all done in fun, but if you know Bill and Ann, then you know they were perfectly serious about catching up to their best friends on the dance floor.  Nothing wrong with a little spirited competition between friends...  

Well, I'm not stupid.  This was a dance teacher's dream.  I immediately began to play both teams against each other.  I would tell Larry and Bette how good Bill and Ann were doing and note the look of concern on their faces.  I would tell Bill and Ann how well Larry and Bette were doing and note the look of determination on their faces.  Meanwhile both couples were signing up for lessons right and left.

I might add with a smile that both couples knew perfectly well the game I was playing.  We all teased each other... "Bill's gaining on you, Larry!"... and laughed ourselves into a tummy ache.  Bette suggested that Larry should bribe me to teach Bill how to dance a move the wrong way.  Nothing like a little sabotage between friends.  This goofy rivalry was marvelous fun. 

As part of the rivalry, now poor Larry became a target for Ann's withering commentary.

We went to the Wild West last night with Avants, Hrncirs and Hudsons.  This song came up and they all said this is too slow, well Bill said come on and we did our three step.  Bill got A+ while those other boys just sat on their behinds!!

I noted that Larry Avant was included in the group of men who didn't dance. I asked Ann what Larry's excuse was.  After all, I had taught Larry the same Threestep patterns that Bill knew.  So why Larry didn't get out at Wild West and dance the Threestep like Bill did?  

This was her answer.

"Oh, that Larry, maybe he did dance, but how would I know?  Larry only enters the dance floor when the song is half over.  I am long gone by then.  By the way, we are going to Nashville and will be back hopefully for lesson on Sunday. Ann"

Curious, I asked Ann why Larry only enters the dance floor when the song is half over.

"That poor boy is such a mess.  Larry claims he only knows enough good moves for a half a song.  Why not make people think he is wonderful and sit down before they change their mind?"

I smiled with delight.  Then I frowned and made a mental note to NEVER give Ann something to tease me about.

Our Friendship Deepens

About this time, Bill and Ann agreed to come early to Chapelwood Methodist Church one night and help me learn a group Waltz dance.  I have made a career out of teaching partner dancing, but I have always had a soft spot for "group dances".  Long-time SSQQ dancers may remember the Barn Dance, the Virginia Reel and the Beer Barrel Polka that I used to teach as part of our annual Hoedown Western party.  So when I saw a video of a cute Waltz group dance, I was determined to learn it and teach it on the upcoming cruise.

That night at Chapelwood, we had a great time trying to figure out how the different Waltz patterns worked.  In particular, Bill got the biggest kick out of helping figure out the patterns.  The next day I got an email from Ann.

"Bill loved that waltz pattern you showed us last night.  He wants to know if it is the waltz you are going to teach on the Magic boat trip.

And we really want to learn to polka and two step well.  Bill studies it on the computer and every time we go dancing he goes over everything in advance.  He is a good student and I am lucky to have him.  Just hope things will go well for you with your problems and we will be praying for you. Ann "

I couldn't remember the last time anyone offered to pray for me, but I was going through a tough stretch and needed all the help I could get.  Unfortunately the praying didn't help as the Magic trip turned out to be a very rocky voyage.  But that's another story.

The point is that I had begun to rely on Ann's constant praise and support in much the same way as Bill did.  Ann has a way of making everyone around her feel so much better.  Just as Bill was inspired by his wife to become a better dancer, Ann inspired me to become a better teacher.  I might add that I noticed more than once that I always became a better person when Bill and Ann were around.

About this time, I taught a very difficult course in Intermediate Foxtrot patterns at Chapelwood.  This was the most difficult class I had ever taught at Chapelwood in two years.  The patterns were very intricate and required a series of precise leads.

Not surprisingly, Bill was flustered by some of the material.  He and I began to dance together several times a night while I explained what he needed to do to make this pattern work or that pattern work.  About this time, Bill decided he needed to videotape the patterns at the end of each class so that he could study them at home.  From what I gather, Bill filled an entire hard drive with the patterns I taught.  I was pleased to help.  Bill was easily the most dedicated student I had ever met in my career.  I could not have been more proud of him.  I might add that Ann's constant encouragement had a lot to do with his progress.  She was always cheering for him! 

Here's a good example of Ann and Bill's typical interaction.  Ann had twisted an ankle and was trying to stay off it for a while.

"Rick, How did it go last night? We really missed not being there. Dancing has become such a big part of our lives. So boring not being able to dance this weekend. So thankful for any chance to dance.  Bill will see you tomorrow night and I might come with him just to make sure he does not make mistakes. We wouldn't want him to get away with anything and I know you can't watch him constantly.  Ann"

Sure enough, Ann came along and watched the class from the sidelines.  At least two times she whistled for me to come over and inspect Bill for a suspected mistake.  Bill would grin and complain that Ann was making this all up just to harass him.  At this point, Ann would disagree and insist I dance with Bill just to be sure.  Ann would say, "Rick, I think Bill's footwork is broke.  When I dance again, I don't want to be out there with some amateur.  See if you can fix him!" 

So Bill and I would dance, I would point out something, and Ann would cackle with glee. "See!  I told you Bill was making a mistake!"

At the end of the class, Ann decided she couldn't stand it anymore, so bad ankle and all, she grabbed Bill for a spin around the floor.  The next day she wrote me this note:

"Boy, Bill is really doing good!  For a second there, thought I was dancing with Rick."

Flattery will work every time.  I concluded Ann was one smart cookie.  She had me wrapped around her finger just like her husband.  I always looked forward to every moment with Ann and Bill.

Petroleum Club

In late November, Ann and Bill plus Larry and Bette invited Marla and I to join them at the Petroleum Club for dinner and a night of Western dancing.  Of course Marla and I were honored to be their guests.

"We will pick you up at 7 if we can find your house. Also come hungry. Will have Bill call you and get directions unless Bette and Larry want to come get you.  Bill is really worried!  If he screws up, will he have to dance with you at the Petroleum Club?  Ann"

Marla and I had a ball dancing at the Petroleum Club.  It isn't often Marla and I get to dance just for the fun of it, so this was a real treat for us.  Marla had a big smile on her face all night long.  I think we all had fun.  Bill got to show off all his favorite Polka moves and not once did I make him dance with me.  Bill may have made a mistake or two, but I looked the other way.  Bill and Ann were so kind to invite us that I thought maybe I could spare the rod for this one night. 

Naturally Ann had something to say about the evening.

"So much fun last night being with you and Marla!!!!!!  Hey, you just about killed me, you are such a big dancer and you did dominate the dance floor. I loved every bit of it and don't mind me.  I'm so worn out I have to complain a little. We are so glad the two of you had fun together. See you tonight in class.  Ann" 


The Hustle Class

At this point, the 2012 December holidays kicked in.  I did not see Bill and Ann for the entire month. 

Imagine my joy when the three of us were reunited in January 2013. Bill and Ann were back at Chapelwood for a new round of my Polka classes.  Naturally Ann picked up right where she left off.  Nothing had changed.  Bill was still working his butt off and Ann was still teasing him about everything. 

That first night at Chapelwood when I danced with Bill, I noticed a new development - Bill was getting pretty good!  After dancing non-stop two and three nights a week for the past six months, Bill had improved dramatically.  Ann noticed it too.  Naturally Ann had to offer a comment about his improvement.

"You know, Rick, I've been watching you two dance.  I am so worried that Bill is starting to enjoy dancing with you.  Please promise me you won't make it too much fun for him!  Ann" 

Ann was right.  Bill and I had become such good friends that dancing together was something we had begun to take for granted.  All the scandal of it was way in the past.  Consequently dancing together had now become the source for much of our humor. 

In January, Bill and Ann started Scott Ladell's Friday night Hustle class at SSQQ.  I didn't mind at all. Anything my friend wanted to do to improve was fine with me.  However, that didn't stop me from having fun at Bill's expense.  Don't forget I was almost as rotten as Ann when it came to teasing Bill.

The following Monday at Chapelwood, Bill let it slip that he really liked that Hustle class.  Big mistake.  I immediately raised a suspicious eyebrow.   

Under my direct questioning, Bill admitted he had danced with Scott, "but only for a brief moment!"  Of course I had to give Bill a hard time about that.  I was indignant.  How could he do that to me?  I told Bill that even though Scott was a good friend of mine, I was really jealous.  Ann howled with delight at the look that crossed poor Bill's face.  I am not sure Bill knew I was teasing.

As it turned out, Scott's Hustle class opened a whole new world for Ann's wicked sense of humor.  The following week as the three of us walked out to the parking lot after our Chapelwood class, Ann was in rare form.  "Rick, guess what?  Bill has a secret he doesn't want you to know about.  Bill likes dancing with you more than any other man in the whole world!" 

When I saw the exasperated look on Bill's face, I just grinned.  Of all the things for his wife to say!  If I could read his mind, Bill felt utterly helpless to avoid being the target of Ann's playful sense of humor.  What would she say next? 

Well, now that Bill's fondness for the Hustle class was apparent, I challenged Bill to prove he was any good at the Hustle.  Bill was immediately up to the challenge.  He could not wait to show off!  Bill took Ann in his arms and moved her through an impressive series of moves.  Not bad, I said.  Bill beamed with delight at my compliment.   

From that point on, each week Bill offered to show me the newest patterns that he learned in Scott's Hustle class.  I would patiently watch Bill show off his complicated patterns with Ann, then compliment him on his progress. I think Bill enjoyed being the teacher's pet. 

Soon enough Ann would start with the mischief.  "Rick, I saw Bill smiling when he danced with Scott on Friday!"

I stared at Bill in mock horror. "Oh no, you didn't!  I don't believe it.  You danced with that other man again?  And you smiled?  How could you!  Tell me it was just dancing.  Tell me it was nothing more or I will get upset."

Bill laughed and reassured me that I was still his favorite... but gosh, that Scott sure was a good dancer!

Touché!  Bill was finally dishing some of it back.

I started to pout and accused Bill of liking Scott better.  Ann immediately chimed in, "Oh no, Rick, you're Bill's favorite!  Scott could never take you away from Bill!" 

I know this all sounds so silly, but dance class gave us all a chance to be kids again.  We would laugh so hard we would cry.  The laughter and warmth we shared was pretty wonderful.

Our Favorite Game

Every week was yet another delicious opportunity for Ann and me to work our double-team on Mr. Bill, our favorite victim.  It became increasingly clear that Ann and I were cut out of the same mischievous cloth.  Because Bill takes teasing better than anyone in the world, Ann and I loved to take turns picking on him.  We both had way too much fun at Bill's expense.  

Our favorite game was "Don't make me have to call Rick".  It was part of our shtick that dancing with me was the worst punishment imaginable.  Medieval torture couldn't be any worse. 

Ann would give Bill two or three chances to figure out how to do the newest Polka move.  Ann would warn Bill that if he didn't get the move pretty soon, she would be forced to report him to me.  Bill would frown.  Oh no, not that! 

Invariably, Bill would try as hard as humanly possible to avoid dancing with me.  However, sooner or later, Ann would shrug apologetically and smile at Bill.  "I am so sorry, Bill dear, but this is for your own good."  Then Ann would snap her fingers and whistle, "Rick, yoo hoo, Bill wants to dance with you!"

Aha!  The game is on.  So I would come over and give Bill a couple more chances dancing with Ann to avoid the inevitable horror of dancing with me.  If he got it right, I would spare him.  But if he didn't make it work after two tries, uh oh, too bad.  Now I would lower the boom.  I would open my arms and tell him gee, this hurts me worse than it hurts you, but get over here and dance with me.  Bill would complain in mock protest, but soon enough we would proceed around the floor and I would explain what the problem was. 

Ann would roar with laughter at the wide variety of flustered expressions on Bill's face.  Bill would of course hear his wife making fun of him and naturally he would make faces back at her.  But deep down Bill could not have cared less that Ann was so deeply amused.  Bill was always such a good sport about his wife's teasing.

Meanwhile Ann was having the time of her life.  She would be talking the whole time as Bill and I danced together.  "You can do it, Bill, I believe in you.  Take that smaller step like Rick says.  Hurry up, I'm lonely!" 

Bill would look at me and I would look at him and we would both smile in agreement.  Ann was such a nut!  Half the fun of our dancing together was listening to what crazy thing Ann would say next.  All three of us were having way too good a time.

Although much of what we did was in play, dancing with Bill continued to be an effective training tool.  Sure enough, Bill would eventually figure out where he was getting in trouble and smooth it out.  At that point Ann would immediately kick in with the praise.  "Atta boy, that's my Bill!!  Woohoo, you got it!  Good for you, honey!" 

Bill's face would instantly light up with immense satisfaction at Ann's applause.  Bill had just proven he could lick the problem.  Now Ann would reward him.  She would squeeze his hand, give him a big hug and say, "Look at you, you're so smart!" 

Oh my goodness how those two loved each other.  It was so remarkable to watch them in action.  It was easy to see why Ann and Bill were just as much in love after 52 years of marriage.  I have never seen a happier, more contented couple.  Their incredible relationship was a constant inspiration to me.

God's Will

Then came the day when the Lord took Bill away.  Bill had a heart attack on the dance floor as he danced with Ann.  I wasn't there, but I heard about it immediately.  I was stunned to think a man with so much life in him could be gone so suddenly. 

Ann sent me this sweet note:

"Rick, Bill just went to heaven doing the Polka with a big smile on his face.  On his desk we found his notes for his pattern we learned Monday night.  He loved you and you were his favorite dance partner.  My love to you and Marla.  Ann"

It was so sad to lose Bill.  But I have to say I agree with Ann.  What a way to go!  One minute Bill was dancing with his wonderful wife in his arms, the next minute it was time to hit the big dance floor in the sky.  It was sad, yes, but it was not a tragedy. 

How can Bill's passing possibly be seen as a tragedy?  Bill McDougal enjoyed the happiest life of any man I have ever met! 

Just as Ann said, Bill died with a smile on his face.  Bill left this earth knowing he had lived life to the fullest and that he had touched the hearts of so many people. 

My memory of Bill's greatness will never leave me.  As you can see from my story, his presence in my life affected me profoundly.  I honestly can say that Bill McDougal showed me how I could become a better person.  For that, I am grateful. 

SSQQ Dance Studio

Since I was not there, I do not know the details of Bill's final moments.  I do know that Bill was right in the middle of dancing a Polka with Ann when he had his heart attack out there on the dance floor.  From what I have been told, he was unconscious almost instantly.  It is a relief to know that Bill did not suffer.

Of all the times and places for something this frightening to happen, SSQQ was holding its much-anticipated inaugural party to celebrate the brand new dance floor.  My heart goes out to everyone at that party.  Of all the things to happen on such a special night!  I say look on the bright side.  Bill made sure no one will ever forget their first night on the new dance floor! 

I guess Bill decided if he had to go, at least he would make sure lots of people remembered him.  And that's a good thing - in life, Bill McDougal demonstrated on a daily basis how to conduct one's life in a loving, dignified Christian manner. 

I might add that thank goodness Bill was surrounded by so many wonderful people in his last conscious moments. 

The people on the dance floor reacted instantly.  Seeing Bill slump to the floor triggered a rapid rescue attempt.  My friend Jack Myers was the first to try to resuscitate Bill.  Jack gave way when another friend of mine, Tracy Akin, rushed to Bill's side.  Tracy is an ICU nurse at a Houston hospital.  Everyone was thrilled to see Tracy take over.  It is common knowledge that Tracy has vast experience dealing with this kind of emergency. 

Bill was in very good hands.  If anyone could have saved him, it would have been Tracy Akin.  Tracy has not only performed this same procedure a hundred times in a hospital setting, she has attempted life saving procedures on eight different occasions in emergency situations such as Bill's case. 

Tracy began CPR immediately.  She did manage to work some of her magic and regain a pulse.  There was hope.  Soon the EMTs arrived and took over.  Bill was taken to the hospital.  Sadly, Bill never regained consciousness.  He died on Tuesday three days after the heart attack.


Tracy Akin

Rick's Note:  As everyone knows, I really admire Tracy Akin.  She is quite a lady.  Tracy is a born leader who possesses so much character and warmth about her.  I might add that Tracy is deeply spiritual in a way remarkably similar to Bill and Ann's great faith.  

I was almost certain that Tracy would want to comment on her role in Bill's passing, so I asked her to share some of her thoughts.

Tracy Akin

"Hi Rick....thanks for thinking of me!  I appreciate that! 

Yes, I was there. Seems that God always puts me where I need to be.

The EMS staff was great. Unlike some EMTs who can be territorial, these guys seemed genuinely glad that I was there as support staff. They took my suggestions well and followed the ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) protocol to the letter.

As far as I am concerned....I never feel like it is awful, or horrible to do CPR on someone. This is what I was trained to do, and what God has had in mind for me. Like I said before, God always puts me where I need to be.

Tracy and Ed Akin

It is hard to imagine, but I have performed emergency CPR eight different times outside the hospital.

There is a plan, I am sure of it.  In all the eight times that I have done CPR outside the hospital, God has warned me in advance each time that he needed me.

A few months back, Ed and I were at Wild West. I was really tired that night.  I had been hinting to Ed that I wanted to go home soon.  Ed wanted to stay a little longer, and I agreed.  When he told me he was ready to go.....all of a sudden it was like I had an infused thought in my head, kind of like someone spoke it, but I knew no one had.  This special thought told me that I needed to stay 10 more minutes!

I thought I told Ed I "wanted" to stay 10 more minutes, but later Ed was clear that I said "I Need" to stay 10 more minutes. At this point in the evening, Ed has decided that I am clearly crazy.  First I want to go, then I refuse to go.

About 9 minutes later, a man collapsed on the dance floor, and off I was to do CPR. This man's situation had a much better outcome.  After hypothermia and open heart surgery, I am proud to say that I now dance with him at Wild West on a regular basis.  In fact, my friend is incredibly scary good at dancing!!!

I wish all the cases that I have done CPR come out that well.  But.....not even the best resuscitation team on the planet can save you when God has other plans.

I was really hoping that your friend Bill would do well. I heard that they had him in hypothermia, which preserves brain function in this kind of event, and it sounded like he was holding his own for a few days, which seemed encouraging. I was sorry and saddened to hear of his passing.

As you very well know, my previous husband Gary died in a tragic accident during Hurricane Ike in 2008.  He was electrocuted while trying to place protective sheet metal on the roof in advance of the storm.  Gary died in my arms as I tried to save him.

What God did give me that day was the unknowing truth that everyone, including myself, had done absolutely everything that we could for Gary. I was house supervisor at the hospital at the time. I would run codes every day of my life and knew the ACLS protocol like the back of my hand. Pure instinct took over that day. When I heard Gary fall to the ground and he did not answer me, I immediately turned back around.  When I saw him, I knew this is why I had been feeling the impending doom.

However....this is where is gets surreal. When I started doing CPR on Gary, I felt the most overwhelming peace and absolute total focus that I have ever had in my life. That's how I know that we did everything that we could, and I would never have to wonder for the rest of my life if I did everything that I could have to save Gary.  That was God's gift to me that horrible day.

I don't claim to know why God aids me in saving some souls, and not others. I just do my best and accept what he wills. I do believe that reviving patients, even if it's for a short time, is preferable to immediate death.  It gives the loved ones time to process, and wrap their heads around it, and come to grips with the situation.  I wish sometimes that I could have had that with Gary.

Do me one big favor, Rick.  Please pass on my admiration for Bill's wife to her. 

Tell her I was truly honored to be given the chance to help.  Due to my own story, I feel a very deep connection to Ann's loss.

Ann was truly amazing through all of this.  Her bravery was something to behold.  She was so calm and rational, made it easy for me to get a complete history to tell the EMS team.  Ann gave me a big hug right before they left in the ambulance, and I thought to myself what an amazing woman she was, to think of others, and to thank me for helping her husband.

Your friend Tracy.


Bill McDougal's Visitation and Service

Tracy was absolutely correct about Ann's bravery.  For the next several days after Bill passed away, Ann thought of others first.  She sent out hundreds of notes and made dozens of phone calls thanking people for their concern.

Ann set the stage for one of the most peaceful and graceful transitions I have ever witnessed.  Despite losing her wonderful husband of 52 years, Ann dwelled only on the happiness of their lives together.  At the Visitation on Friday, January 25, Ann was front and center for nearly three hours accepting condolences from a veritable throng of well-wishers. 

Marla and I stood next to Larry and Bette gazing in admiration at Ann's strength.  It was a noble and brave performance indeed.

Ann came over and said hi to us on two occasions.  The first time she came over, she pointed out a very lovely stand of roses.  Ann said that JoAnne Armstrong from SSQQ Dance Studio had sent them over.  Ann gushed at how beautiful the flowers were.  I agreed.  The stand stood nearly five feet high.  It was filled with a lovely array of roses.

I couldn't help but think again how gracious Ann McDougal was.  She is always thinking about others before herself.  It is impossible not to admire someone like that.

I spent two hours watching Ann greet people, thank people and hug people. 

The outpouring of warmth for Bill was absolutely phenomenal.  I estimate 200-300 visitors. I concluded that Bill McDougal was loved by more people than any man I have ever met. 

We all wept at various times.  Why fib about it?  There is no shame in saying goodbye to a dear friend and feeling sad for our loss.  Here again Ann set the tone.  She was upbeat and smiling the entire time.  How did she do it?  I was amazed.  By being so happy and positive, Ann singlehandedly turned Bill's visitation into an event filled with happiness, not grief.

I had to hand to it to Ann.  Her constant smile turned what should have been a very solemn event into one of warmth and caring.  Ann had so much dignity about her.

Only once did Ann soften for a moment.  Towards the end of the evening, Marla went over to give Ann a hug and ask how she was doing.  Ann said, "Gosh, Marla, I was getting tired and I turned around to tell Bill to get me out of here and take me home.  Then I realized he is gone.  Oh how I miss him."

The Funeral Service at
Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church the following day was also very upbeat.

Bill's next door neighbor Luther took the lead.  He spoke warmly of his friendship with Bill.  I think they were best friends who went hunting and fishing together all the time.  He made us laugh with anecdotes about how he played Santa Claus to all of Bill's children for many years. 

In particular, I was touched by some of the stories shared by Bill's older brother Tom.  He talked about growing up with Bill and all the fun they had getting into trouble.  Tom brought down the house with his story about how the two boys snuck backstage at a Gene Autry concert to get a better view of their hero. Only one problem - their mother didn't know where they were and was frantic.  She alerted every person in authority at the county fair only to spot them at the back of the stage.  Busted!   Tom's love for his brother was apparent to all of us. 

Another touching moment came when Julie, Dana, and BJ, Ann and Bill's three children, took the stage.  Julie took the lead.  She spoke of the many cross-country family adventures  to Florida, Colorado, and California. 

Julie spoke of their tight-knit family and how her father took the time to teach them how to be leaders.  Julie smiled as she remembered how her father gave the three children constant support in their education and careers.  Again, the love was very apparent.  Just like their mother, they were sad at their father's passing, but incredibly grateful for all the wonderful times they shared with their father

Then Bill's many grandchildren got up. I smiled in appreciation.  So many wonderful children!  Their presence was a poignant testimony to the greatness of Ann and Bill's amazing skills as parents.  What a blessing to create such a remarkable family!!  I laughed when I saw that all the boys were wearing ties taken directly from Bill's closet.  That was a very nice gesture. 

The room was absolutely packed.  I guess there were 500-600 people there.  For the second time that weekend I came to the conclusion that Bill was loved by more people than any man I have ever met.

What finer testament to a man's life can there be than to be loved and respected by so many people? 

Bill McDougal was one heck of a man.  Wherever he went, Bill created a legacy of warmth and joy that will be remembered for a long time.   The time I spent with Bill makes it very easy to understand why so many people loved him. 

I feel very privileged to know that Bill considered me his friend.  He certainly had my admiration.

Rick Archer
February 01, 2013




             Billy Joe “Bill” McDougal was born in Paris, Texas on September 20, 1941.  He went to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on January 22, 2013.  After 71 wonderful years, Bill went home, as the last refrain of “Amazing Grace,” being sung by his family, echoed down the hall of the hospital. 

             Bill was the son of Marvin and Dalene McDougal.  His grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Hollis McDougal and Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Ward.  Also predeceasing Bill was his sister Joy McDougal Smith.  Bill is survived by his brother Thomas McDougal and his wife Janet of Dallas, Texas, and his sister Sandra McDougal Bivings and her husband Jay, as well as Joy’s husband, Donald Smith, all of Valliant, Oklahoma.

             Bill grew up in Valliant, Oklahoma where he was president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship, lettered in baseball and basketball, President of the Valliant FFA, and raised three grand champion Hereford steers for the McCurtain County Fair.  Bill was inducted into the Valliant Hall of Fame in 2010.  It was also there in Valliant where he met the love of his life, Ann Riddle.  They met when they were fifteen years old and married at nineteen, and they spent the next fifty-two and a half years of their lives together.

             Bill obtained his Bachelor of Science (’63) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (’65) from Oklahoma State University.  After post graduate training in immunology from UT Health Science Center, he became a clinical instructor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine and an Adjunct Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.  Bill opened his first veterinary clinic in Houston in 1965.  He began his specialty in dermatology in 1970.  He founded Veterinary Allergy and Dermatology Referral Clinic in 1981 and continually travelled throughout Texas providing specialized dermatology care and treatment.  Bill was the past President of the American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology, past President and Life Member of the Harris County Veterinary Medical Association and author and renowned speaker on dermatology at both the state and national levels. 

             Bill was an avid sportsman; he had forgotten more about deer hunting and saltwater fishing than most have ever known.  Bill lived life to its fullest, in part because of the Type I Diabetes that he was diagnosed with at nine years of age.  From scuba diving to tennis, from golf to dancing, Bill and Ann embraced life and excelled in everything they did.

             Known as “Dadaddy” by his ten grandchildren, beloved “Geezer” by his hunting and fishing buddies, Bill was an incredible husband, father, grandfather and friend.  Bill loved unconditionally, with no strings attached.  You were the most important person in the room when he looked at you and his smile brightened the darkest of days.

             Bill is survived by his wife Ann, his daughters Julie and her husband Tommy, Dana and her husband Tim, and his son B.J. and his wife Ellen.  The grandchildren who were the love of his life are Timothy, Joseph and Emily Kurtin, Sarah, Sam and Stephen Gillaspie, and Kathryn, Bethany, James and Michael McDougal.

             Nothing was more important to Bill McDougal than the Lord Jesus Christ.  Bill’s entire life was a lesson on love, grace and mercy, and rarely did he ever need to use words.  Nothing spoke louder than his love for Ann, how he raised his children, his service to his church and his sacrificial love for his friends.  Everyone knew that when the chips were down, there was no friend like Bill McDougal.

             The visitation will be by the fireplace at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 8300 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas, on Friday, January 25, 2013 from 5pm to 7pm.  The Memorial Service will be at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 4pm.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the CEPC Music Fund, care of CEPC.

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