WILLIAM SIMON ROORDA
William Simon Roorda, 96, of Harrisville, passed away peacefully at dawn on 14 November 2020, at his Lake Huron home.
Bill was proud of being a stowaway from Holland in utero with Elizabeth Cornelia “Bep” Verstijnen Roorda, of Amsterdam, when she immigrated to America. He was born in Detroit on 19 December 1923, the son of Hendrik “Henry” Roorda, of Enkhuizen, Holland, who left his career as a First Engineer on oceangoing ships to come to the USA. Dutch was little Billy’s first language, and his pronunciation remained excellent throughout his life, kept up during frequent trips to visit his close relatives in The Netherlands.
He grew up in Melvindale and Grand Rapids, graduating from South High School. The 6-foot-2 Bill met another graduate of South High, the lovely and statuesque Pearl Elaine Carpenter, 6 feet in her stocking feet, a model and art student, at a tall persons’ club. They wed in 1952, and were married for 53 happy years. Bill served honorably in the Army during World War II, discharged as a corporal in 1946. He worked his way through General Motors Technical Institute, now Kettering University, in Flint, and had a distinguished career as a Professional Engineer at GM and other corporations, as Plant Manager, among other positions of authority. He contributed to workers’ safety by writing standards for stamping presses that are still in force.
Nearing the age of 65, Bill formed Alcona Associates Inc., and became a consultant and expert witness in product liability cases, delaying his retirement until the age of 90. His career took him all over the world, and he also traveled widely for pleasure, with family and friends. Hiking and canoeing were major themes in his life, with Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior being a special favorite on his long list of destinations. He also relished Ocean voyages, preferably aboard the ships of the Holland America Line, which he remembered fondly from his boyhood passages across the Atlantic. In his later years, he enjoyed reviewing photographs of his previous adventures and writing about them, assembling travelogues in thick albums, which lined the bookshelves of his home in Harrisville. He gave copies to his travel companions.
He was the longtime Assistant Scoutmaster of his sons’ Boy Scout troop, and later he agreed to serve as the first Scoutmaster of a BSA troop formed to serve disadvantaged, multi-ethnic boys in Lansing. Enrollment in Troop 444 swelled when word got out at middle school how much fun it was to go camping with Mr. Roorda, and soon Bill was literally showing the ropes to 20 Tenderfoot Scouts.
Snowbirds for two decades, Pearl and Bill spent their time golfing and beachcombing in Harrisville and Venice, Florida. He was an active member of the Alcona County Historical Society, frequently to be found sitting in the Bailey Schoolhouse or perched at the top of the lighthouse tower at Sturgeon Point, where he enjoyed being a docent, interacting with families, and imparting morsels of history in his friendly way.
Bill is survived by four children: twins Alida Kay “Leedee” Berryman (Steve) and Randall Keith (Susan Cobin), Terence Edward (Rita Getzen), and Eric Paul (AE Dee Doyle), seven grandchildren, a great-grandson, his sister-in-law Joanie Roorda, and his brother-in-law Keith Carpenter. He was predeceased by Pearl in 2005, his brothers Henry and Edward, and his sister-in-law, Joyce O’Krent.
Gillies Funeral Home in Harrisville will carry out Bill’s wish to be cremated, with his ashes to be placed with Pearl, at Mt. Joy Cemetery, overlooking Lake Huron. Contributions in his memory made to the charity of the donor’s choice would be deeply appreciated.