William (Bill) Timothy Venema: Son. Uncle. Dancer. Deacon. Born Sept. 9, 1969, in Brampton, Ont.; died May 12, 2021, in Brampton, from complications related to liver disease; aged 51.
At Bill’s birth, tears were shed when the family learned he had Down syndrome, but it was the only time anyone cried about that. When five-pound “Billy” was brought home, no one saw disability, just a happy baby boy. The youngest of six, Bill was embraced by friends, family and community. He returned the favour in spades.
Saturdays were always special for Bill, hanging out at his sister Gwen’s place with nephews and nieces or going to McDonald’s with his brother Ralph. When Ralph got married and needed a best man, Bill was the obvious choice. He rose to the occasion, dressed up sharp and delivered a heartfelt speech.
Bill had eclectic interests. He loved a party and couldn’t resist a dance. At one niece’s wedding, he cleared the dance floor, got the DJ to play Greased Lightning, and busted out his best moves to the guests’ delight.
He liked art and took lessons in landscape painting from a professional. He readily absorbed the new techniques, hosted a solo art show and sold many of his works.
An avid Blue Jays fan, Bill also revelled in cheering on his church’s baseball team, the Immanuel Flames. He kept the players supplied with gum and candies. Members of both the Flames and opposing teams looked forward to Bill’s appearances. He was soon appointed assistant coach and acquired several medals for winning seasons.
Bill volunteered for a decade at Hickory Wood Public School, where his sister Gwen was a teacher. He also helped Gwen in delivering the children’s message during worship services at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church. He sang all the hymns with gusto and was never shy about jumping in when he thought he could be helpful: one morning when his brother George was taking up the weekly collection, Bill helped himself to a basket and used it to gather cheques from the faithful. Recognizing his gifts and faith, the congregation formally ordained Bill as a deacon. One of his duties was serving holy communion to his fellow parishioners.
In his later years, Bill moved into Holland Christian Homes, a large seniors’ residence where he shared an apartment with his mother. He was an ambassador of good cheer, greeting everyone who crossed his path in the 1,000-person complex.
When the pandemic struck, he and his mother, who were both growing frail, moved in with Gwen and her family for several months while awaiting placement in long-term care. The family was delighted when mother and son were offered a room together in Grace Manor. Being confined to the manor was difficult for Bill. He missed his broad social circle, but, in true Bill fashion, he made the best of it. He sketched, FaceTimed with family and befriended the staff. Even in his final days, he was up for “funtivities,” as he called the puzzles, drawing and LEGO projects he was so fond of. Always one to grab hold of life with both hands, he maintained his joie de vivre to the end.
Sophie Vandenberg is a friend of the family.
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