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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Saying goodbye to Coach Bill Boyd

When cancer first knocked, Bill Boyd didn’t have any choice but to open the door and acknowledge its presence, but the long-time educator and coach at Royal Oak Dondero hardly put out the Welcome Mat.
Instead, he battled the colon cancer that was discovered two years ago.
“Dad went after it hard,” said his son, Kevin. “He had surgery and came out of that fine.”
Sixteen months later, when a pain in the stomach meant that the cancer had spread to his liver, the battle was rejoined.
“Dad fought it as much as possible. They began chemo treatments, but six weeks ago the doctors said his body could not take any more treatments.”
It was nearly three weeks ago now when Bill Boyd left the hospital and returned to his Madison Heights home.
At about 8 a.m., Friday, March 30, Bill Boyd died.
“That night, Dad’s breathing had become labored. All of a sudden, in the morning, his breathing really calmed down. My mom was in her bedroom and she got up and said ‘He’s breathing a lot easier, isn’t he? That is good,” recalled Kevin.
“That was about 7:15 in the morning. I was right at my dad’s bedside. I sent a text to my son and told him to have a good day. Then I told my dad that he did not have to fight any longer; that everybody was going to be all right. Nobody wanted him to suffer. He was not only my dad, he was my best friend.”
Shortly thereafter, there was no gasping for air. There was only an enveloping peace. Bill Boyd had died.
Bill Boyd’s viewing will be Monday, April 9, and Tuesday, April 10, at the Edward Swanson and Son Funeral Home on Dequindre Road in Madison Heights. On Monday, the hours are 4 to 8 p.m. On Tuesday, the viewing will be from 2-8 p.m.
The funeral will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak. A pre-viewing will be at 10 a.m., with the funeral service at 11 a.m.
Bill Boyd leaves behind his wife, Marilyn; and their children, Kevin, Kathleen and Kristen. All of Bill and Marilyn’s children attended Lamphere High School in Madison Heights. There are also seven grandchildren. Bill and Marilyn would’ve been married 50 years in November.
Bill attended Cortland State Teachers College in upstate New York. His college baseball coach was Jim Manilla, who later came to Royal Oak. It was Manilla who told Boyd about a job at Mary Lyons Junior High in the city.
Boyd spent three years at Mary Lyons, and 31 years at Dondero, where he worked from 1960 to 1991.
He was an attendance officer, a teacher and a coach. He coached pretty much every sport at one time or the other, but was known mostly as a baseball coach. He was one of the founding members of the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association of Michigan.
Dan Busto played baseball for Bill Boyd for three years at Dondero, from 1971 through 1973. As a junior and senior on the varsity team, the Oaks won league championships. In 1972, the school’s final season in the Border Cities League, Dondero topped teams like Wyandotte, Dearborn Fordson and Monroe to capture the league title. In 1973, the Oaks dominated the fledgling Metro Suburban Athletic Association.

Coach Bill Boyd (far left, top row) and the 1972 Royal Oak Dondero baseball team that captured the championship of the Border Cities League. (Submitted photo)

After graduating from Albion College, Busto returned to his high school alma mater to coach and teach with Bill Boyd for a year.
“Bill Boyd was just a consistently nice guy, day after day, practice after practice, year after year,” said Busto. “He did not have an ego. He loved Dondero and he loved his kids. He wanted us to play hard, but play clean and respect the game.”
All right, so the coach had a smidgen of ego. Frequently, during intra-squad games and batting practice, former college pitcher Bill Boyd would take the mound.
“By that time, B Boyd was in his 40s, but he had this little spinner that I could never hit,” recalled Busto, laughing. “I’m not sure if it was that I couldn’t hit his pitching, or I did not want to hit it, but B Boyd would always say ‘Danny, it’s not much, but it is just enough to get you out.’”
There are plenty of people around Royal Oak who are now without a good friend. All that remain are some great memories.
Bob Eberhardt was a friend and colleague of Bill Boyd’s at Dondero.
“I came to Dondero in the fall of 1968 and at that time, Bill was the attendance officer,” said Eberhardt. “He was also teaching driver’s education.
“Bill’s humor, his laugh, his generosity are the things that stick out. He was the only person I know who would probably have given a stranger the shirt off his back if the stranger needed it. If you were in a jam or needed help, Bill was the person who was always willing to help,” he continued.
That generosity was nearly reciprocated with a pile of ashes one summer a long, long time ago.
When Bill and Marilyn took the kids on a lengthy vacation, their pastor asked if he could use their home while they were gone. Without a moment’s hesitation, they said yes.
Only the Boyd house was not occupied by the pastor. Instead, a formerly homeless man used it as his return address. When the Boyds got home from vacation, there was clear evidence of several campfires that had been ignited in the front room.
From ashes to ashes and dust to dust. All of us who knew Bill Boyd were better off for it.


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