William Neville Anderson: Veteran. Wordsmith. Broadcaster. Grandfather. Born March 6, 1922, in Saint John; died Sept. 9, 2020, in Goderich, Ont.; of natural causes; 98.
Bill Anderson had a voice made for radio, a deep resonating voice that stayed with him into his 90s. He also had the gift of being able to draw you into his circle, which served him well as a broadcaster in the early days of radio.
He loved radio, and while still a student at Saint John High School, he joined the only station in the city, and created a following.
Bill also enjoyed bridge and met his future wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Kinsman, at the card table. They married when they were 21 in 1943. Bill and Betty spent their honeymoon at Camp Petawawa, where Bill had to report for army training.
Bill wrote to Betty often while overseas, where he saw action as a reinforcement officer in France, Belgium and Holland as captain of the 96th Anti-Tank Battery.
When the war ended he was asked to stay on as the army’s liaison officer, to deal with newspaper and radio correspondents. The job also took him to the trial of Kurt Meyer and the war-crimes trials of Goering and Hess.
When he returned to Saint John, he and Betty started a family and welcomed three daughters, Margaret, Susan and Sara. He also joined radio station CFBC as a broadcaster and interviewed many Canadian politicians, and even then-U.S. senator John F. Kennedy. “They were the halcyon days. There was no television and all the excitement was about mobile radio,” Bill often recalled. He also joined the militia and rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel before he retired.
In 1958, he moved the family to Toronto, where he had been offered a job in public relations and communications.
In 1993, Bill and Betty moved to Goderich, Ont., to be with Susan, who had been diagnosed with cancer. He enjoyed getting to know his grandchildren and great-grandchildren better and teaching them to play cribbage. He had his own custom-made board and took the game seriously, “even when playing with a seven-year-old,” Victoria, his granddaughter, said, adding he was a terrible loser and a gloating winner.
Barbara, another granddaughter, described him as a good but complicated man, who was difficult to get to know, but, beneath it all, a good heart. “He was a feminist, long before it became popular, and treated us, even when we were very young, as equals at the dinner table.”
Bill devoted much of his time to charities and, in addition to his military decorations, he was made Knight of Grace, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John Jerusalem and Order Légion d’Honneur, France. Every Thursday for 20 years, he read books for the CNIB and was a popular lay reader at church.
Bill loved seafood, especially lobster and fish chowder, and would go out of his way for a lobster roll. Every winter, he couldn’t wait till the May long weekend for his annual fishing trip to Blind River in Northern Ontario. He tied his own flies until he was 90.
He played tennis well into his 80s and managed to survive four heart attacks. Bill never like being separated from Betty and so when her health failed, he too moved into the local hospice to be with her.
In later years, Bill liked to sit on his back porch with birdseed and peanuts to attract wildlife. Before summer was out, he would have a Blue Jay or two eating out of his hand.
He spoke with a preciseness not often heard today, and admired the use of proper English in others. He quoted Churchill whenever he could fit it into a conversation. But his gift of voice did not extend to his singing; it was the only thing in his life that was off-key.
Jim Carr is Bill’s friend.
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