Who We Are Is:

When and where we were born, grew up and got educated;

Where we lived, worked and traveled; What we experienced along the way and,

What we think we learned before we came to northern California

Our lives and relationship are a long series of personal choices that led us inexorably forward to our present moment. We took circuitous routes from our births, fifteen years and two continents apart, to our first meeting. We both felt connected somehow during a brief business consulting encounter and we both knew that we wanted to know more about each other.

We both know that we have NO sense of regret over any past decisions and events. Good and 'bad' decisions brought us to the present. If any thought, word, decision or action was changed or left out of our journey we would have had different results, for each of us - and probably would not have led us to northern California.


When and where we were born, grew up and got educated.

Will likes to point out that his mom told him that he was conceived on January 1st 1945 around 3 AM (Eastern time) in a 1930 Ford Model "A" coupe. Will was born in October 1945 in Sidney, New York. On New Year mornings he announces his xxth year is now beginning. As of January 1st 2015, Will begins his 70th year of life, but his 70th birthday will be in October 2015.

Will's dad, Bill, served in the Army from 1945 until 1947 working as a Military Policeman (MP) guarding German PoWs at Greenhaven Prison north of the city of New York. Will lived with his mom, Grace, and her parents in a large rented house on the outskirts of Wells Bridge right next to the mainline of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad and the north bank of the Susquehanna River. When Bill came home from the Army in February 1947 the three moved to a farm in Delhi, New York where he assisted the owner in running the farm. They had their 2nd son, Robert, in November 1947.

After a 'fight' with the farmer over pay issues, Bill moved his family in with his parents, Harold and Elizabeth, in the Fall of 1948. Bill began working at three jobs: as a mechanic at a garage in Unadilla, as a 'relief' farmer for vacationing farmers, and as a carpenter on the construction of the East Sidney Reservoir Dam. In between naps, he also worked with Harold in building and remodeling homes for other people. Will ('Junior', in those days) was often on the building sites with his parents from about age three. Will has flashback memories of 'working' with his dad on those projects. Will grew up in his dad's shadow and began developing the same blend of carpentry skills. At age four these skills were mostly measuring, fractions and angle measurements, and carrying things from 'here to there'.

Living with Bill's parents had begun to be stressful after the birth of their third child, Larry, in November 1949. It was time to 'move on'. By April of 1950, the constant work had paid off. Bill and Grace had saved and with a small inheritance from Bill's grandmother, they had just enough money to buy a small parcel of land north of Unadilla. They cleared the land of most of the mature hardwood trees in the beginning of the Spring of 1950.

Bill took a small loan from the Unadilla bank to cover some of the construction costs. Bill and Harold got the trees 'rough cut' into lumber and began construction of a small house. They barely managed to get the 2-car garage, the kitchen and the toilet almost done before summer ended. The savings had run out and the house could not be completed. The second section with the bedrooms was put off. Bill moved his family into the garage. The place was barely habitable. The toilet sat in the place where the bathroom was to be, but, there were no walls around it yet. The home-built kitchen cabinetry was loosely set 'in place' but not finished. There was no insulation nor any plasterboard to cover any of the walls. The outside was covered only in asphalt-impregnated 'tar paper' over the sheathing boards. The weather began to get cold. And the only heat was a kerosene stove. The weather got colder and soon the whole family moved back to his parent's house for the winter. Bill worked on the house to get it habitable. By January 1951 he had the interior walls in place and the kitchen was settled. The toilet was still without walls or a tub. But he moved his family in by April 1951.

Bill had taken time away from the usual jobs to build the house. The summer of 1950 had seen the start of the recession that was to last until 1955. Bill's jobs began to disappear. The dam was finished. The building and remodeling work slowed way down during that summer. Even the mechanic work had slowed down. Bill had to do something to earn enough money to keep going. Bill went back to farming to get any money. Around December of 1950 he got a job just a mile from their new home as the 2nd assistant farmer on the 'summer' farm owned by the founder of the Ferris Seed Company. There was a small dairy herd but the main activity was caring for a large herd of Hereford cattle. The pay was low and he struggled to make the loan payments on the house each month. Soon, he was unable to make any payments. By the end of Summer 1951, the bank had begun to talk of foreclosure.

Will was unaware of the financial situation his folks were in. For Will it was the end of summer and time to start school. His 6th birthday was in October therefore he was required to start in Kindergarten which was a great disappointment to him. Will's first week of Kindergarten was eventful. He was a 'lefty' and refused to write with his right hand. Moreover, he could print the letters upside down so a person sitting across from him could read what he wrote. He spent 'Art Time' drawing a series of 'sky scrapers' with good detail. He started drawing from the rooftop (at the paper edge closest to him) and worked his way up the paper to the ground level. The teachers were bemused by this 'upside down' method. 'Math Time' was fun too. Will had already memorized the multiplication tables, working with fractions was no problem, and he could explain the number of degrees in angles of common shapes. He told one teacher that. "A square is a circle with four straight sides OR a circle is a round square. It's the same number of total degrees. Take your pick". His dad had been teaching Will these things from age four during the building of the house. And in 'Letters Time', Will already knew the alphabet and had a strong grasp of 2nd grade spelling and grammar.

The Kindergarten teachers huddled with the first grade teacher and the Principal gave his blessing to their plan of moving Will into the 1st Grade. Will had decided that the left-hand writing was NOT going to change. It became a test of wills, both Will's and the teacher's. After two weeks of trying to force Will to use his right hand, he 'hit the wall'. He walked out of the school at lunchtime. He told Frank, the friendly town cop, at the crosswalk that he was going three blocks to the garage downtown to see his dad. Instead, Will crossed the bridge over the Susquehanna and walked about five miles south of town to the farm where his moms' folks were now living.

Will sat in his grandma's kitchen happily eating pickled beet sandwiches. His responses to her about school and why he had walked so far, can be summarized as evasive. He did say it was about being forced to write with the right hand. But, he was not willing to expand on that. Grandma had no phone so he was there well into the late evening. About ten PM, his parents arrived there in desparation to tell the folks about his disappearance, only to find him safe and asleep on the couch. Will got a severe scolding on the way home that night. Next day, Will went back to school. The teacher took him to the Principal who spanked Will'S BUTT with a belt. Will was VERY unhappy.

Bill was unhappy too. The bank had foreclosed on their house in early October and he had to move his family. Luck was on his side. The 1st assistant farmer on the Ferris Farms had quit and Bill could move his family into the 'hired hand's' house on the farm. Plus he would get a boost in pay as the main assistant farmer. The house was really big with five bedrooms and a full complement of other features.

Will tried diligently to write with his right hand. But each day he got more and more frustrated and angry. By the end of October he had reached his limit. Kids were teasing him on the playground because of his inability to learn to write with his right hand. His teacher tried once more to show him how to correct his writing. Will lost control, threw his pencil at the windows and yelled some obscenity at the teacher. She grabbed his arm and took him to the Principal for a spanking. Will knew this was not going to end well. He broke loose from the teacher's grasp and made his escape out the principal's door, ran down the hallway and out to the playground. Yep!, the kid was running, again! Will walked most of the day, covering nearly eight miles, and was just 1/2 mile short of arriving home when the school nurse drove up behind him on the road.. Caught! She drove him home and spoke with his mom, then with his dad. The nurse went back to school to let them know 'the kid' was alright. The Principal called in the early evening and told Will's father that he would have to come in with Will in the morning for a serious talk.

The Principal sat at his desk, Will and his dad across from him. The Principal spouted a lot of, 'You know the rules', 'the expectations', the 'need for uniformity', the 'likelihood that Will was going to turn into a delinquent teenager', and yadda, yadda, yadda... Will believed he was in for a serious spanking and tongue lashing from both the Principal and his dad. Will's dad glared directly into the Principal's eyes, and said, "My son is left-handed. You and this damned school will NOT (his voice had risen to a near shout as he leaned forward and put his right elbow on the desk) force him to use his right hand. Period!" The Principal thought for a few moments. He then said, with a sigh of exasperation, "Alright, we'll let him use his left hand. But the rules call for him to have a spanking for being unruly with the teacher. I'll administer the strap now and he can go back to class." Before the last sentence was half way out the Principal's mouth Will's father had risen to a standing position, had reached over the desk and grabbed the principal by his shirt and tie near the neck. He lifted the Principal from his chair and pulled his face close to his own. Will's dad spoke to the Principal with their noses nearly touching. He said, "You will NOT punish my son for rebelling against his teacher over this issue. It is high time you people learned that left handedness is not some disease that needs to be corrected. He will write with his left hand and YOU will never punish him for it." His father let go of the shirt. The Principal seemed frozen in a half-standing position and then collapsed in his chair. He straightened his shirt and tie and muttered, "Just take him back to his class, down the hall to Ms....... That's all."

To her credit the teacher accepted the task. She insisted that Will was going to learn to write every bit as well as the right-handed kids. During lunch hour she pulled Will aside for a talk. She asked, "What is your favorite thing to read about?" Will responded, "Animals." She pointed out the Encyclopedia Britannica at the rear of the classroom and sent Will to bring her the 'A' volume. He did and sat down. She turned pages until she got to the Aardvark. She assigned Will the task of copying long-hand the stories of every mammal in the encyclopedia until she was satisfied that his handwriting was acceptable. Will was not upset. He knew he would learn about animals, that his handwriting would improve and that he would not otherwise be punished. Game On!

The time at the Ferris Farms was enjoyable and life was more or less stable. Two more children were born, Gloria (1952) and Linda (1954). Will gained farming experience while helping his dad. He could drive the tractor for plowing, dragging and haying from age 8. Will considered farm life to be the most enjoyable part of his childhood. Play in the barn was intermingled with work which transformed life and work - into 'play with a purpose'. The foothills of the Catskill Mountains in southern New York was idyllic. There was plenty to do for work on the farms. There was even more fun to be had running on the deer trails in the forests and fields. Creeks and rivers made for summer fun for swimming, fishing and frog hunting and in the winter they were great for sliding on the ice.

But, the fun stopped when his parents decided they needed to move somewhere, anywhere, that they could find decent paying jobs. His parents decided to follow Bill's parents' example and to move to the city of Rochester New York to find work. Bill's dad had become a union carpenter the year before and he got Bill into the union with ease. Grace took a job as a waitress. City living was a whole new set of experiences. From the freedom of 'run and play' to the prison of 'running to escape' another beating from one gang of boys or another. Will and his siblings were in constant fear of the meanies in the neighborhoods. Is there any wonder that he prefers the solitude of the forest to the bustle of any place with more than three cars a day passing your house or a couple hundred noise-making people...?

Sister Carol was born in 1957. The family moved into a small house in the center of the multi-ethnic ghetto in Rochester. Grace was pregnant again and would deliver in July 1958. The rented house was too crowded and something had to be done. In May 1958, Bill's parents were doing rather well and offered to co-sign a bank loan to buy a large lot in Scottsville which had a small house on it. In truth it was a shack, but it was a chance to live a better life than in the city. They bought the house in May. The family moved in June after school ended and started a huge garden. Dawn was born in July 1958.

Dawn narrowly escaped death on the day she came home from the hospital. Grace had lain Dawn in the center of their double bed and the kids all gathered around to see the new sister. In the blink of an eye, Will dove from the side of the bed and laid on top of Dawn. A two gallon pail which had been hung by a wire coathanger from the ceiling light fixture landed on its bottom edge on Will's spine at his waistline, spilling the water on him and the bed. Dawn wasn't harmed, not even wet. Will was in severe pain for a week, or so, but thankfully nothing was broken.

Will started the 8th grade in Scottsville. He was now 12 and old enough to work. He took a job delivering newspapers twice each day for 365 days of the year in Scottsville. He delivered the Democrat and Chronicle in the morning and the Times Union in the evenings, to over two hundred homes and businesses. In the Fall everyone helped with the harvesting, canning and storing of the bounty from the garden. Both parents worked at least one job, sometimes two to make the loan payments. Will was the 'built-in' baby sitter and housekeeper. He often said, "I learned early how to control 'crowds' with very little food and drink and managed to keep them fairly clean and in school - at least until I left home in 1964."

The winter of 1958 was tough to endure in the 'shack at the end of the road'. Frost formed nearly an inch thick on the inside of the windows and walls from January through March of 1959. The six kids all slept together in a double bed. Will always took the side of the bed that was nearest to the outside wall and below the single pane window. Will recalls that the only warmth he felt during those three months was when his sister (the criminals' name is withheld) would turn to hug him from behind and peed on him and the bed. Will would get up, wash his one pair of underwear and hang it on the kerosene stove to dry before school in the morning.

Delivering the newspapers became very hard to do. He often lost control of his bike on the icy roads and dumped papers in the snow. He'd retrieve the sections and reassemble them and start again. After a while he became good at staying 'up' in the worst conditions. He often said, "Some days it seemed like the entire route was all 'uphill' - both ways"! One day in May of 1959 Will saw that rain was coming. He convinced Bob and Larry to go with him to get the papers delivered faster. They were on the last street when the storm hit. Rain came down so hard and fast that the ditches overflowed onto the streets. Water was "from three inches to 'god only knows' how deep". The three boys were soaked to the skin. Will saw a large puddle, perhaps thirty feet across, and wanted to 'fly' through it. He got his bike up to maybe 20 mph, stood up on his pedals and lifted his arms straight up overhead as he hit the edge of the puddle.

When he regained consciousness he was flat on his back. Only his toes, chest and nose were out of the water. He saw his brothers hovering above him with worried looks on their faces. They were shouting but he could not hear them. He rolled onto his left elbow and lifted his head out of the water. Now, he could hear his brothers. They were shouting, "Man you were soooooooo blue". "We thought you were dead. Did you feel anything when the lightning struck you? What was it like? Will could recall nothing of it. He got up, gathered the soaked newspapers and delivered the paper mache to the customers. His ears were ringing for three days. He became more cautious in rain storms thereafter.

On Friday, June 12th, 1959, their father came home from work at about 4 PM. He gathered the family around and said, "Alright, it's time. Get in the house and take everything out, now! Put the food and clothes on the ground under a tarp, the furniture out on the lawn, same for all the kitchen stuff. Go, now!" They all wondered what was happening. He pushed them toward the house and said, "I'm tearing this house down this evening. I'll put in the concrete foundation and the floor by morning. By noon tomorrow we will start building a new house. I'm tired of coming home to a place so small I can't change my mind without having to step outside. Now, move it!" A new house!?! 'Holy cow', they all thought. They had been aware that he had stockpiled lots of scrap lumber, plywood and nails that were salvaged from the scrap piles at his job sites. But, a new house had never crossed their minds. Everyone did what they could.

Will had to deliver his newspapers before he could help much. He raced around his 6 mile route in record time. When he got home the house was practically bare inside. He helped his dad move out the stoves, refrigerator, dressers and heavy bed parts. By 7 PM the house was empty. Bill had marked areas on the lawn away from the house where he wanted the house parts to be placed. He gave each of the three boys a crow bar and hammer and directed them to start removing the siding as far up the wall as they could reach. He did the roof and top wall sections. It was a small house and the removal was easy. Larry got the task of removing nails from each piece. The girls took turns stacking the boards for later disposal. Grace cooked a meal over the gas stove which had been set up on the lawn with its' large tank. At 11 PM, the last board of the structure was removed from the concrete pad it had been built on. Grace swept the pad clean and everyone ate dinner in the glow of the car's headlights.

The girls were sent to sleep in the car atop the clothes. The four guys were going to work by the light of the headlights and several oil lanterns. The boys each got a shovel and began to dig a trench, eighten inches wide and three foot deep around the perimeter of the original concrete pad. The sandy soil made digging easy. Bill started building forms for the concrete wall and followed the boys as they dug the trench around the pad. They were done with the forms by 3 AM. Bill set the two-wheeled cement mixer next to the trench and the boys began bringing wheelbarrow loads of sand and gravel to the mixer. Bill mixed and poured the concrete, then moved the mixer and repeated the motions until the last load was tipped into the forms. He smoothed the top with a trowel and inserted threaded steel rods into the cement as it began to firm up. It was 6 AM. Will had to go and deliver the papers. Bob and Larry went along to help speed the process.

When the boys returned at 730 AM, their dad had already cut lumber to predetermined lengths and placed them on the pad. He used old lumber when he could and new lumber as needed. While the concrete hardened, Bill finished creating each section of the exterior walls and laid them on the pad atop one another in the order they were to be raised. The siding was to be plywood that had been used as concrete forms on his regular job. He used a power saw to square the edges and stacked them on the ground around the pad.

At 9 AM grandpa 'J' arrived with Bill's brother Arnold (age 14) to help. Bill took a nap while everyone else ate breakfast. The boys also laid down for a while, but none could sleep from being so excited. Bill awoke at 11 AM. The boys were ready to start. It was decided to put the plywood sheathing on the wall sections before they were raised into place. This resulted in a faster erection time overall. It took the full effort of the four oldest, while Bob and Larry held crowbars against the bottom plate of the walls to prevent them from sliding off the pad. Then each section was lifted up 3 inches to be set back down over the bolts in the concrete. The sections were bolted and braced as they were placed. The exterior walls were done by 2 PM and the interior stud walls by 4 PM. Doorways were cut through the siding at the rear and at the front. Window openings would be cut out when the windows were delivered. The stair frame and treads to the second floor were cut and fitted into place. The joists for the 2nd floor were cut and placed and the floor decking was nailed down by 6 PM. Will took time out to deliver the newspapers on his route. Bob and Larry helped put the precut lumber for the 2nd floor walls up onto the 2nd floor. Bill and Harold got the gable end wall studs cut and nailed. Then the sheathing went on. Thankfully, there was not a whisper of wind. Each end gable was lifted into place and braced to the deck. Then the half-height walls for the sides were assembled and tilted into place between the gables. Finally, an interior wall that divided the 2nd floor space into two rooms was put into place and cross-braced to prevent any twisting. No one had stopped for a meal since breakfast. Grace had brought sandwiches to each person as they had a moment to choke it down. The girls took the job of 'water boys'. It was now 9 PM. Gramdpa 'J' and Arn went home. Everybody else crashed wherever they could find some place that wasn't covered with tools, lumber or scrap.

At 6 AM sharp on Sunday, Bill was up and started cutting the rafters for the roof. The boys got each board up onto the 2nd floor deck after they were cut. Will, Bob and Larry delivered the newspapers. Sunday's paper had two to three times more pages than the weekday editions. At 8 AM breakfast was ready and they all finished just as Grandpa 'J' and Arn came back. At 9 AM Bill and Harold assembled a 30 foot long site-built ridge beam using three layers of 2x10 lumber. They used a pulley system at each end to lift the beam up to the pre-cut slots in the top of each gable end. They nailed the beam ends into place. Then they went back down and built the rest of the center wall so that it came up to and supported the ridge beam. Will was advised that he was now going to do a very dangerous job. Will was to climb up the half walls of the 2nd floor, straddle the gable wall and 'shinny' his body up to the top and climb out onto the ridge beam. His job was to catch the end of each rafter as it was raised up and to hold it in the pre-marked place on the ridge beam. Then he was to wait until the lower end had been nailed into the half wall top plate. Then he was to align the rafter pairs at the mark on the beam and put one #20 nail through the angled end of the rafter and into the beam. Bill and Grandpa 'J' would finish the nailing after the whole set of rafters were done. Will thinks this led to his tenor voice! A little past noon, the last pair of rafters was nailed and they broke for lunch. After lunch Bill and Harold did the remainder of the nailing on the rafters while the four boys brought plywood sheathing up to the 2nd floor and stacked it. Then Harold and Bill got on ladders outside and the boys handed sheets of plywood through the rafters to them to nail onto the rafters. This was the slowest part of the work since it involved working on a 45 degree slope. 2x4 treads had to be nailed onto the roof sheathing as 'steps' to reach higher on the roof. At 4 PM the last plywood was nailed into place. Then Bill and Grandpa 'J' put a layer of tar paper on the roof and finished it with a layer of 30 pound rolled roofing. The last nail was put into the ridge cap at 10 PM. The headlights of both cars as well as flashlights were used at the end. A plywood sheet was hinged to each door opening and the carpenters gave their 'blessing' to their work at 11 PM Sunday night. By the end of July, the real doors were installed and the interior walls got finished with drywall.

The new house renewed everyone's spirits. The garden was bigger than before and the harvest was twice as large. The canning required more jars and the time to prepare and can the food exhausted everyone. But disaster was looming on the horizon. Bill had a serious drinking problem that had gotten worse with each passing year. After one weekend bender he lost control and stayed drunk for a week. On Friday evening December 12th he got into an argument with Grace and began beating her. Will felt no choice but to call the police and have Bill arrested. While the police had Bill outside in their car, Will got his mother off the floor and onto the couch to get her calmed down. Will knew his dad could be exceptionally violent. Tonite was the worst he'd ever seen. He decided his dad needed to go to jail at least to cool out till morning. He went out to talk with the policemen and asked if they would take his dad to jail. They said they would just let him cool out right there and let him come back in after a little while. Will knew that was not going to work. He told the sergeant that his mom had said she wanted Bill arrested. This was a dramatic change from her behavior in all previous fights, but the officer gave Will the form and told him where to get her to sign. She had to write a brief description of the incident. His dad had overheard this and hissed, "She'll never do that to me...". Will knew that was true. His plan developed 'on the fly' as he walked back into the house. Will sat on the edge of the couch. He explained that it was safest to have Bill arrested for the night, to cool out in jail and to come back the next day. She said, "No, I can't do that to him. It's all my fault anyway." Will had already decided what he would do. He filled in the description of the crime, his dad's name as the assailant and his mother's name in the complainants line. Then he used his right hand to slowly sign his mother's signature on the form. He knew what forgery was and he knew there was no way that he personally would survive the night if his father was released. After all, it was Will who had come back into the house with an aluminum baseball bat; that he had scared the hell out of his father by swinging it once above his dad's face when he lay on his back on the floor trying to dodge Will's swing. It was Will who had the bat over his right shoulder in preparation to swing again - this time to actually hit his dad in the head if he made any attempt to get up from the floor. And the only thing that stopped him from doing so, was when the cop had pulled his pistol, pointed at Will and said, "Drop the bat or I'll shoot you." Nope. Dad was not going to come back in that door, not tonite. Will took the form back to the officer. When Bill realized he was going to jail he reacted violently. With his hands cuffed behind him in the back seat of the squad car, he suddenly spun 180 degrees vertically. With his head on the floor he used his feet to kick out the rear window. The policemen both refocused their efforts on restraining his dad. Will had been right, there was hate in his dad's eyes and Will knew that he would be 'dead' if his dad could get ahold of him. The policemen got his dad subdued, laid him face down in the rear seat and one sat on him while the other drove the car away. At some point in the wee hours of the morning, Grace recovered, left the house and walked to the closest phone booth (two miles away) and got her boyfriend to pick her up. Will was left alone with his siblings until monday afternoon when Grace returned to the house. She brought her boyfriend and his car. They loaded all of the kids into the car, drove 200 miles to her parents home in Milford NY and left the kids there "until things get settled with Bill". They would not see her again until the last week of April.


And Then There Was Liza!

Liza was born in June 1960 in Dubna Russia. Dubna was the first science city built in Russia to do nuclear research after the 2nd World War. Liza's dad, Dmitri, is a well-known particle physicist and was part of the Russian team that built many of Russia's first experimental bombs. Liza's mom, Svetlana, taught in the middle and high schools in Dubna.

Liza was the third child and the only girl in the family. Her brother Grigori was a 'budding' rock musician wannabee after the Beatles tradition - he was a drummer. Grigori became a physicist like his dad and is now #3 in the management heirarchy of, and responsible for the physical plant of the Joint Insititute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna. Middle child Pete became a mathematician and a teacher at the International University of Dubna (IUD).

If you ask her, Liza will say her childhood was pretty uneventful. She lived in Dubna until the family moved to Akadem Gorodok (Academic Village) south of Novosibirsk (New Siberia) in the mid-60's. Many of her fondest memories and oldest friendships come from living in this idyllic place in central Russia, more-or-less in Siberia. Her love of winter sports developed while she lived there. Camping, foraging for mushrooms, playing in the pine and birch forests, swimming in the chilly lakes and rivers were certainly fun activities. All too soon the family moved back to Dubna so Dmitri could continue his work on the bombs!

In the 1969-70 school year, Liza went with her parents and Peter to Sweden for a year. Dmitri was in an exchange program for physicists. It was Lizas first experience in a foreign country. She learned enough Swedish to 'get along' and found the experience to be fascinating for the life styles of the Swedes. The year went by too fast.

Liza graduated from school in Dubna and went to Moscow State University for her Masters' degree as an economist. One of her memories was of drinking too much and convincing a driver to let her drive a Moscow city bus. No deaths or injuries ensued. After calming down from university fun, she settled into a job at a construction bureau for a few years. The bureau designed and managed construction projects throughout the Soviet Union (USSR).

Liza traveled a lot around the USSR. The travel was mostly part of her job at the construction bureau. Summer beach trips to Crimea and Sochi area were fun times for Liza and her girl friends. Skiing trips to Elbrus in Kabardina-Balkaria in the Caucasus Mountains were great memories. She fondly recalls the trips into the mountains of Georgia. Camping and hiking over the mountains and into Kabardina-Balkaria near Elbrus was a joy. One of her trips was nearly her 'last'. Dmitri took Liza (age 10?) with him on a 'road trip' from Bishkek, Kyrgysztan to the Pamir Mountains of eastern Tajikistan. The vehicles were mostly military trucks. The drivers were frequently drinking most of the time. The roads were of such poor condition that if they were on American maps would carry the warning "Here be dragons", or "Check with locals before using". The truck they were in nearly slid off the road backwards from a high cliff. Certain death would have claimed them, but the driver managed to recover control at the last possible moment.

Liza married a Ukrainian math teacher, Igor, in the mid 1980's. They had three children: Ekaterina (Kate)(1986), Philip (1987), and Vasili (Vas)(1991). They lived with Liza's parents for a while and then moved to Moscow near the Moscow State University. Liza and Igor divorced in 1997.


Meanwhile, Will Was Playing "I Spy"

Will had many other 'hard' learning experiences on his way to graduating from high school. He moved from the small community school to the big city schools in Rochester, New York, back to a small town school and then to a church-run high school and finally back to the big city school to graduate. Will had diverse interests as he reached his teen years. He was a quick study in school, got good grades and enjoyed singing in the choirs. In high school he took drafting and found a natural talent for drawing. His math and 3-D thinking skills helped him design a complete motorcycle engine for a drafting contest. He came in 2nd Place. In his spring semester of his senior year, Will helped build a 1/4 mile dragster from scratch with a team of like-minded young turks. And he restored a Ford Model "A", 5-window, 2-door, sedan.

But, university was going to have to wait! With the Vietnam war looming in front of him in the fall of 1962, Will joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and became a Communications Technician (CT). After graduation in 1963, Will went to boot camp and then to Class 'A' Electronics school the following summer. Will left for active duty with the Navy in 1965. When Will left home his dad was about to get even for having him arrested years before. His dad sold the car for $300 and wrote to Will to tell him so too and kept the money. The Navy took Will in directions that he had not expected. He joined the Navy to minimize his chances of going to Vietnam. Assigned to the Naval Security Group he realized this goal, but Oh My! the places he did go......

When Will went off to active duty in 1965, he completed two electronics schools in Florida and Maryland on special equipment used by the Naval Security Group (NSG) and was ordered to Midway Island in the northern Pacific - almost the last island in the Hawaiian chain. Before he left he made a short trip home to visit family. While there he met, fell in love and married his first wife - all in two weeks. Will had another electronics school in California before he had to leave for Midway. His wife went with him to Mare Island in Vallejo California for the school. She became pregnant with their first child while in California. Charlene (later renamed herself to Crystyna) (1966) was born in December while Will was on Midway. After a year of the isolated duty on Midway, Will was ordered to go to the advanced electronics school at Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay on the north side of Yerba Buena Island (are you seeing a pattern here?).

The one-year school at Treasure Island proved to be very challenging. It was university level math and electronic theory. His wife became pregnant for the 2nd child just after he moved his family to Alameda. In early May, about one week before she gave birth they found out the 2nd child was going to be the #2 AND #3 children (Eugene six minutes before William)! Whoa! Long story short, the pregnancy had been tough on her and the after effects of birth were even harder. There was no "post partum depression" in the normal lexicon of parenting in those days. This was only learned about much later after reading articles on this in the 1980s. Adding to the stress Will was ordered to Pearl Harbor Navy Base in Hawaii for a three year tour beginning in December 1968.

Within the first six months of arriving in Hawaii, the marriage ended. The children were awarded to Will and the physical placement went to his ex-wifes' parents until Will could get out of the Navy on a hardship discharge. The Navy did not accept the idea of a single parent with three kids. The Navy reacted by sending Will on back-to-back hazardous duty assignments on ships, subs, and to places in other countries to prevent him from being able to move ahead on the discharge. Meanwhile a judge in New York, at the Navy's request, overturned the custody decision and Will was notified after the case was done.

Will met his 2nd wife while he was serving his last year in Hawaii. His 1st wife, after a year of custody, was soon unhappy and wanted to get rid of the daughter. Charlene came back to Hawaii for her 1st Grade year. In 1970, Will and family moved to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton Connecticut. During the time there Will became the head of the NSG Electronic Maintenance shop. His 12-year old sister came to live with them since his widowed father could not 'manage' her. Will began a custody proceeding in 1971 and regained custody of the twins. All was well again, except for the Navy practice of one tour ashore, followed by one tour at sea was invoked. Will received notice that he was to be transferred to a 'research' ship that cruised along the coasts of Africa for a minimum of one year. As luck would have it, the Vietnam war was winding down. A surplus of people in his rating inspired Will to go for an 'early release' from his enlistment. And the family moved to Wisconsin.

Will resettled his family in La Crosse Wisconsin in February of 1973. He took work as an electrician for the Trane Corporation. Then the unions went on strike and Will would not 'cross the line'. He partnered with a fellow who owned a 16 foot flat-bottomed boat to do commercial fishing on the Mississippi River south of La Crosse. Will enjoyed the work and the fun of being independent. He learned how to keep the boat afloat at half power from the outboard engine with a loose fish cargo that filled the boat to the gunwales and water pouring over the sides into the boat..... Try that sometime for fun! Oh yeah - the 19 hour days were a lot of fun too.

Meanwhile Will was taking courses in real estate law so he could pass the Broker's exam to be a real estate broker in Wisconsin. He missed only one question on the Examining Board's exam. He agreed with a sponsoring broker that he would start to work for him in September that year. The fishing dropped off with summer heat and he took a job at La Crosse Rubber Mills as an order filler.

The real estate business was severely crippled from 1973 through 1977 by the high interest rates. Will bought and remodelled a large farmhouse in the countryside east of La Crosse. Will could see little return on the investment of time and money in real estate, so he started the business degree program at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse. He finished the BS degree in 1977 and he was in the first class of the new MBA Program at UW-L in 1978. Will also taught business courses for the Western Wisconsin Technical College and the UW-L Business School while he was in his MBA program. During the university years, Will had a 4th child with his 2nd wife. Aaron was born in 1977. His now 15-year old sister was still with them and was joined by another sister, then age 12 - a large family of 6 children.

Another stint in real estate followed graduation from the MBA. The real estate job required a move to Sparta Wisconsin to manage an office there. The 5th child, Susan was born in 1979. Another downturn in the real estate market led to closure of the Sparta office. Will decided in the summer of 1980 to go back to university - this time as a professor for the Viterbo College Department of Business Administration. He stayed there from 1980 until 1995. Will taught from 1980 to 1981 and was 'punished' for his success by becoming the 2nd person to be the Department Chair - and he still had to teach full-time. Will's 6th child was Lisa, born in 1982 to his 2nd wife. Will and his faculty were able to grow the number of business students from 50+/- in 1980 to nearly 1100 full and part-time students in 1995. Will had helped in the fund-raising work to get a multi-million dollar gift to form the Dahl School of Business in 1991 and served as its first Dean from 1991 until 1995.

The Sister City program had paired La Crosse Wisconsin with Dubna Russia in the late 1980s. In 1991, the Development Officer of Viterbo College asked Will if he would meet with the Russians who were in town. After some hurried phone calls to his Commanding Officer (CO) in the NSG, he got 'clearance' to meet with these Soviet citizens. The meeting was to see "What can your college do to help teach Soviet business people how to succeed?". After two hours it became clear that an opportunity existed for some type of exchange program for students in Russia and some of Viterbo's students and faculty could go there. Will agreed and got permission from the Navy to pursue the idea, up to a point! Will's security clearance and work for the Navy forbade him to go to the USSR without written permission.

Will returned to La Crosse on the morning of July 20th from a 17-day Navy tour of duty with the U.S. Embassy in London. July 21st 1991 was a 'good day to go - again!'. Will dropped his letter to his CO requesting 'permission to go' into the mailbox at the airport as he was about to board his flight to Helsinki. Three other people from La Crosse had joined his business delegation, the first ever, from La Crosse to Dubna. The other three would stay for two weeks and Will was to be there for five weeks. The plan was to tour the city, meet with government and business people and to learn about the opportunities for helping Dubna develop.

The five weeks went quickly. For the first two weeks tours of factories, stores and storage facilities were 'top of the list'. The team did seminars on marketing, management, retailing, gift shop ownership and travel agency operations. When the other three left, Will focused on business education. The discussion started with simple short-term training sessions and quickly mushroomed into a full-blown university concept with Viterbo, UW-L and WWTC working together to develop a Dubna university. Will cautioned everyone that the issues were very complex and that the three La Crosse universities had limited resources to do this sort of thing. But he promised to carry the ideas back for further discussion with his colleagues.

In the last week of his stay in Dubna, the mayor took Will to meet with the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, the Minister of the Atomic Energy Ministry, the Director of a Union of Humanities Professors, the Chairman of the Moscow Regional Education Committee, the Rector of the Moscow Higher School of Economics (MBA program) and the mayors of several communities near to Dubna. Will was taken to a building in Dubna that was in a state of suspended construction where the university could be 'built'. There, he met with an 'investor' who was interested in taking over the building from the Atomic Energy Ministry, finishing the construction and colocating his business in the basement of the university. And the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research agreed to partner with the city of Dubna to support the university. The plan was set whether Will found cooperation in La Crosse, or not!

Will left Dubna for a meeting at the "White House' of the Russian Federation in Moscow. He was to meet with a fellow who wanted to come to America to teach economics for Viterbo College, and to bring his wife and family for a year. After dinner and a performance at the Bolshoi Theatre they went to meet the mans family. Will stayed overnight there and was to leave Russia by train on Sunday morning at 0015. The mans father was to drive Will to the train. Upon arriving at the entrance to the square where the Leningrad Station was located the car was stopped by armed military men. The driver told Will that something strange was happening, but that he should be calm and he would get to the station by a 'rear' entrance through the baggage office. As they turned away from the square, Will was able to see lots of military trucks and soldiers sitting and standing in the square. Will got on the train without further incident and arrived at the Finnish customs on Sunday morning about 7 AM. It was August 19th 1991. When Will settled into his hotel in Helsinki he flipped on the TV. The ABC NightLine News show was on. The first words he heard were, "a coup is underway in Moscow and Gorbachev is in custody...."

Will's heart sank at that message. All of the work of the past weeks seemed in jeopardy. Will called home to advise that he was out of the USSR and learned that several other folks and children from La Crosse were still in Dubna. Will arrived in La Crosse the next evening and was whisked away to the local CBS TV studio for an on-air interview. Everyone was worried about friends and family in Russia. And about the future.... Will had two new Russian students who were on their way 'out of Russia' to America when the coup started. He interceded with the U.S. Air Force in Alaska for one who flew on a Soviet air force plane to Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska. The young man got through OK and was hastened on his way to La Crosse Wisconsin on an American air force plane instead of public passenger planes. The 'fog of confusion' began to lift over the next few days. Finally, a guy named Yeltsin arose from the din of the crowd and stood on a tank. The rest is history. Will was there on the night the 'iron curtain' began to disappear. By December 1991 the USSR was fully dissolved and in March 1972, Will was on a U.S. Air Force C-5A taking a load of humanitarian aid donated by La Crosse businesses and people for our friends in Dubna. And he had some good news - the three universities in La Crosse had all agreed to form a working committee to help develop the Dubna university.

From March 1992 through summer of 1995, Will was in Russia about 1/4th of his time. The International University of Dubna (IUD) took over the building he had seen in August 1991. The investor had kept his promise. The university had been legally formed as quasi-private, with funding from private people, the city of Dubna, and the Moscow Regional government. The Ministry of Higher Education gave approvals for the 'westernized' curriculum and the degree programs in science, physics, business and economics. By 1995 the IUD had about 2,000 students and a rotating group of American volunteer professors doing courses in most fields of study. Will decided to retire from Viterbo College in the summer of 1995. He would take a sabattical from September 1995 until January 1996 and then resign his position. It was at this point that he was asked by a long-time friend to make 'just one more education consulting trip to Russia' for the Citizens Democracy Corps (CDC) volunteer consultant program......


"Just Once More...Became..."Never Enough"

Will was worn out. A heavily contested and tempestuous second divorce in 1991-92 had drained his financial resources and his personal energy. His decision to 'retire' in 1995 had been triggered in 1993 when the new President of Viterbo College fired Will's good friend and boss from the Academic V.P. position and gave Will verbal notice that he too was on the firing line. Will had tenure and decided to 'tough it out'. The new president did not like anything to do with the 'Soviets' and did not want "non-Catholics" in leadership roles at 'his' college. And he declared that the Dubna project was to come to an end by 1995 for Viterbo. When his other long-time friend called with the "Just once more..." offer, Will rejected it out of hand. Will was trying to set up a consulting business with his other friend who had been fired and the time away would cost the new business. "NO! I've donated too much time to Russia".

"But, I've already committed you to go and the whole thing depends on you coming as a university professor and dean, etc." And after enough of this logic and a lot of other yadda, yadda, yadda Will gave in. His latest relationship was on the rocks - also because he was not a Catholic, and the time away might cause each partner to see things in a different way in a month (really?). Will left for a four-week trip to Russia in early November. After a week of teaching at a technical college in Dubna he was to do a week of consulting and teaching marketing seminars for a CDC sister agency, The Center for Citizen initiatives (CCI), across town in Dubna. The translator working for CCI who was assigned to help him get his slide presentation into Russian called and agreed to meet him on Sunday because she had young kids and her parents could tend to them for a few hours. On Sunday, November 12th 1995, Will opened the door to his future, literally.

Will stuck his head in the opening of the door to see if he was in the right office and was immediately attracted to this blond beauty who greeted him from behind her desk. They shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and quickly got down to work on the translation. Tea and cookies and conversation broke the tension of work and Liza Shirkova entered Will's life. But, she had said she had three kids. Will immediately thought, "OK, but I can at least dream, can't I?" All of these years and the endless trips and work in Russia. So many times he had been tempted but had stopped short, not wanting to compromise himself or the women. He spoke not a word of this to Liza, nor to anyone else. But something had changed and only time would bring it out. But this was to be the 'last trip!'.

Will completed the consulting assignments in Dubna, Vladimir, Moscow and Voronezh and was soon leaving Russia. On the last day in Dubna he had agreed with Liza to get some information for her consulting client, Tito Pontecorvo, who was saving Akhal-Tekhiner horses from extinction. This would be done through e-mail. On the flight home his old friend asked, "Will you come again, if I ask?" Will did not hesitate. He said, "Sure."

Will completed the tasks he had agreed to for the CCI clients. He got information on the horses and also for the farm owned by the Russian Orthodox church in Susdal near the monastery. The e-mails to Liza were a way for Will to keep his fantasy alive. His consulting company was chartered and he got his first client, a large manufacturer of furniture in the U.S., who wanted to enter the Russian markets and wondered how. Will had agreed to gather the information and make visits to furniture factories, get estimates of what price they might be able to produce chairs for and to present the preliminary results in the late summer of 1996.

Concurrently, that same old friend set up another joint CDC-CCI consulting project. The trip would take all of March 1996. Will agreed and knew it would also be the time to do some preliminary research for the furniture company. The personal relationship had ended in January. He put his entire household of furniture, equipment and personal effects in a storage locker, not knowing what he would do upon return to La Crosse. Will was 'alone again', naturally! He would be working in Dubna for a month. He was anxious to at least tempt fate by being near the lady Liza again.

The ten days was for consulting with CCI clients that he had seen during the previous trip. On the holiday of March 8th, Women's Day, he went to St. Petersburg to visit some consulting friends and to scout the furniture companies for interest in working with an American firm. Another ten days were spent in the Dubna office before going off to Voronezh for consulting to a startup proprietary business school. After that, he would be free to return to Dubna for a weekend before he left for the U.S. During the second ten day period in Dubna Will learned that Liza's marriage was 'in trouble' but not 'why'. He felt a connection to Liza. There was great camaraderie in the office during breaks in the work routine. Lots of champagne and cookies and cheese and cognac and talking. Will realized he was very drawn to Liza, but could not be certain of her feelings toward him. Once she had him come to her folks home for a dinner along with other CCI staff. A social event to be sure, but he got to meet the kids (Kate, Phil and Vas) and her parents. Lizas dad spoke English and was pleasant. Will sensed he was being evaluated in some way, but not in an unfriendly manner. He wanted to meet Liza again after going to Voronezh, but was not certain if he should intrude on her life. On the day of his last seminar for the Dubna CCI office he went to Susdal. The planned seminar had not been properly advertised and there was practically no one in the audience. The local guy had failed. Will sat for an hour. As time passed his thoughts wandered back to Liza. He decided it was "Now or Never". He took advantage of the lack of an audience and wrote a long letter to Liza explaining his feelings and thoughts about her. He asked if he were to come back to Dubna after Voronezh, if she would have dinner with him to talk about the possibilities. He put the letter in an envelope and gave it to his driver to deliver to Liza when the driver would get back to Dubna after delivering him to the train in Moscow.

After four days of no reply from Liza, Will sent her an e-mail asking if she had gotten his letter from the driver and whether or not he should come to Dubna for dinner. She replied almost immediately, "Yes. Sure. I will be waiting for you!" That meeting, the dinner and the long conversation that started then and continued well into the next morning has never ended. We both expect much more conversation before we depart this life. Never enough!!


"Hand in Hand and Belly to Back, They Danced"

From Spring 1996 through late 1997 Will worked as a volunteer consultant for the Citizens' Democracy Corps as the Entrpereneur-in-Residence for the Moscow office. This led to full time employment as director of the Business Collaboration Center in Moscow. Will consulted for major companies, politicans and entrepreneurs writing business plans and seeking funding. The BCC was also heavily involved in consulting to Russian government offices on Internet businesses.

From the BCC Will went to the IREX office in Tbilisi Georgia where he was the Regional Director for the IREX Caucusus Region of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. He teamed up with a Soros Foundation director from Azerbaijan and the NATO Science Director in 1999 to form a regional umbrella group to direct NATO's efforts to provide high speed Internet service to the Caucasus'.

In 2001, Will was hired by Carana Corporation of Fairfax Virginia to be the Chief of Party for a five-country project in Kazakhstan and Central Asia to provide universities with funds amnd materials to redevelop their infrastructure, retrain faculty in economics, finance and business and to develop Internet education. Will stayed at this until 2003 and then changed gears back to teaching. He stayed in Central Asia for one more year to teach courses in the regional training program he had helped establish there called the Education Network (EdNet) to provide Master level education for professors in economics and business administration.

In 2006 Will moved to Mobile Alabama and started an online university, named Omniversity®. By 2008 it had gone through the 'shakedown' phase of developing courses and recruiting a test group of students. But alas, the financial crisis of 2008 spelled doom for the business as creditors demanded faster payment and the licensing agency balked at renewing the license in a timely manner. Will retired.

Liza had worked at a Russian construction design bureau as an economist during the Soviet era. As perestroika was happening she found herself in a more entrepreneurial role. She sold Zepter pots and pans and then shifted to writing computer programs for a local bank in Dubna. She was working as an interpreter and clerical aid for the Dubna office of the Center for Citizen Initiatives of San Francisco until late 1996.

She moved from CCI to the office of another U.S. contractor in Moscow, the Citizen's Democracy Corps (CDC) of Washington, DC. Liza was unemployed for a year when she went with Will to the Republic of Georgia for his job. In 2001 Will got hired for work in Kazakhstan. Liza decided to take work there with a software company.

Returning to Moscow in 2003 so Vas could finish his education in a Russian school, Liza took work with a series of software companies. Then she jumped to marketing director for a British law firm in their Moscow office. And from there she joined Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) as a marketing assistant. And now Liza works on projects as she feels the desire/need for money. She is currently working part-time in the project for Open Government in Russia.


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