William “Bill“ Pier passed into eternal life on August 27 after having lived with Alzheimer’s for 15 years. He lived with it by showing a sense of humor, for example exclaiming he enjoyed golf more since he didn’t remember the bad shots! He lived with it by showing compassion for his family, recognizing what was coming was going to be harder on them than on himself. He lived with it by remaining the gentle soul that he always was.
He was born in Milwaukee on March 12, 1936 to William and Beatrice (Gehl) Pier. Growing up raising mischief in the Washington Park neighborhood, he attended St. Sebastian’s School and later Marquette University High School, frequently hitchhiking to school down Wisconsin Avenue. Bill contracted polio the summer after high school graduation, which meant he never fulfilled his plans to enroll at the College of the Holy Cross. Thank goodness for polio, for he recovered and decided to attend Marquette University instead. There he met his wife of 61 years, and is survived by, Joanne (O’Malley) Pier. Soon after, Joanne had her nursing degree and Bill graduated from Marquette Medical School in 1961 after which he joined the Army. They started a whirlwind tour of the globe, growing their family along the way - starting in Milwaukee with the birth of Jeanne (Mark) Gilpin, followed by a tour in Germany where James (Susan Robitaille) and Brian (Karen Cannestra) were born and back in Milwaukee for the birth of Tom (Christine Bracciotti).
Bill treasured his grandchildren Daniel, Christopher and John Gilpin; Brendan (Kim), Katherine and Claire; Emily (Vince) Cialdini, Nicholas, Madeleine and Eleanor; Marygrace and Elizabeth. He delighted in teaching them and grandnieces and grandnephews about life at “Mimi’s Camp” where they gathered every summer at Bill and Joanne’s Northwoods WI paradise. More recently, he would smile at photos of his great-granddaughter Emilia Cialdini, with perhaps some wishful thinking on the part of Grandpa Brian that he understood.
Bill is also survived by three sisters, Constance (Jerry) Zander, Patricia (John) Megan and Vivian (Jack) Smith. He is preceded in death by his sister Charlotte (Bernard) Ernst who also suffered from Alzheimer’s.
The family sends our heartfelt appreciation to the entire staff at Elizabeth Residence New Berlin where Bill lived his last three years. Such a compassionate team that cared for “Dr. Bill” and where the entire staff knew to speak “Alexa, play John Denver radio” upon entering his room.
We extend our gratitude to Synergy Home Care, especially Judi, who cared for Bill at home for so many years.
Bill had arranged to donate his body to the Medical College of Wisconsin, hoping to provide some clues to this debilitating disease of the brain. Alas, COVID had other plans as it was determined Bill was infected (for the second time!) at his death so his donation could not be accepted.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Amazing Grace Chorus (Bill and Joanne sang in the Amazing Grace Chorus for many years – the power of music is great! Our thanks to Stephanie, Arlene, KC, Vonta and Maurice). Donations would also be appreciated to the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter where Joanne received such great support as a caregiver.
A memorial mass will be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at 12130 West Center Street, Wauwatosa on Saturday, September 25 at 11:00AM, preceded by visitation starting at 9:30AM. The family will host a gathering to celebrate Bill’s life immediately after the mass, location to be announced.
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