William e. arbanas obituaries fhtimes.com electricity year 4

Bill was an avid golfer and bowler, having rolled perfect 300 games in his brief stint as a professional bowler in the Chicago area. He also had a hole-in-one in golf, and was so good at both sports considered turning full-time professional, but this was during Depression times, and his father needed him to help run the family florist shop and bowling alley…so we will never know how far his multiple sports talents might have taken him.

Bill was a member of the “Greatest-Generation,” and served overseas in the Army during WWII. He missed the D-Day Invasion, but did fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Bill achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant, serving in the 1st Division, also known as the Big Red One. Bill started in the Antiaircraft Command, but was switched to the Infantry. Bill was awarded the American Campaign Medal, European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, the Bronze Star awarded by the Army for acts of valor in combat, the Purple Heart for being wounded during combat, and the Good Conduct Medal. Bill also claimed to have saved his entire company by accidentally shooting the mess cook while cleaning his rifle. Bill was part of the Occupation Forces once the war ended and published a company newspaper to keep up the soldiers’ morale.

Upon discharge and returning stateside, Bill and his wife, Elie, took over a portrait studio in Chicago from Elie’s parents, which they ran until 1956 when they sold the business and Bill went to work for Nalco Chemical Company, first as a staff photographer. But his talents of communication and love of people allowed him to become Nalco’s best sales rep. Bill continued in this role for the remainder of his career, working his way up rapidly to becoming a regional director of sales. During his career, he drove over 1.2 million miles, personally serving his many prominent customers, including Caterpillar, General Motors, Westinghouse, General Electric and others.

Throughout his life, Bill loved to paint in oil and created many lovely paintings. Once he retired from Nalco in the mid-1980s he increased his output of scenic landscape oil paintings and even went to the lengths of buying old barn siding and creating his own custom frames with that aged wood.

While Bill and Elie were working and raising two boys, they lived primarily in the Chicago area and a few years in the Cleveland area. They settled in Naperville, Ill. in 1967 and lived there until 1994. That was the year Bill and Elie’s decades-long plan to move west came to fruition. Bill and Elie’s dislike of cold and snow would lead them to building their forever home on Palomino Blvd. in Fountain Hills. When Bill’s Midwest friends asked why he would move to such a hot place, he’d tell them it was because he wouldn’t have to shovel sunshine!

Bill was immediately at home in Fountain Hills and hit the ground running. Elie, on the other hand, took a bit longer to warm up to Arizona’s heat. Once they both settled into the desert life, their social nature, outgoing personalities and desire to make other people’s lives better kept them busy. Both were active members of the Church of the Ascension, Bill as an usher and helping feed the homeless in some of Phoenix’s more challenged neighborhoods. They attended Bible study classes. Bill worked out at Spooner and Shaft and made many friends there. Their lives were full and satisfying.

Each year Bill and Elie took a long road trip to visit their sons and Bill’s siblings in California. Their sons also came to Arizona once or twice annually to take in the blistering heat of summer and/or the pleasant coolness of the Christmas season.

In 2002, Elie went into the hospital, where she unexpectedly passed. Bill was devastated. However, while in the hospital, Bill met Jim Gardiner, a deeply spiritual, kind and witty man who would become Bill’s new best friend in this world, and his lovely wife, Joan. With the love and support of these newfound friends, the parishioners from Church of the Ascension and other Fountain Hills friends, Bill pushed through that incredibly difficult time. Bill thought about and spoke of his wife daily and over time was able to put the pieces back together in his life. He was healthy and with rock-solid family, church and community support, moved on gracefully.

He liked to play golf with his friends Bill and Mary Jane Zeltner and Art Wolfe. Bill stayed busy in and around his home and would drive into town daily, stopping to say hi to business people and visit friends at their homes. He loved life, he loved people and lived his life accordingly.

Shortly after moving to Fountain Hills, Bill and Elie would go to Denny’s each Sunday after church and gather with friends. Over time, all of these original friends passed, but their children and friends arrived to fill in the empty seats. Today, Fred and Barb Hansen, Patti DeSmet, Nancy Damone, her brother Ron and Larry Arbanas meet there each Sunday to carry on the sweet tradition Bill and Elie started so many years ago.

In January 2011, Jim Gardiner called Bill’s sons in California to tell them their father had just fallen and broken his hip. The next day Bill and Larry arrived in Fountain Hills to support their dad through his health crisis. As Bill Sr. had been so independent for so long, it seemed he would quickly heal from hip surgery and would no longer need the assistance of his sons. Unfortunately, the initial surgery went awry and Bill had to have his hip re-operated on just two months after the first surgery. He suffered a small heart attack later that year. During the next few years, Bill Arbanas found himself visiting more specialists, clinics and hospitals than he knew existed. Larry stayed on as Bill’s live-in caregiver and made the Palomino Blvd. address his home for the next five years.

Larry loved living with his dad. Each day they made a little trip into Fountain Hills to socialize. Most often they could be found eating soup at the Euro Pizza Cafe. In April 2016 Bill moved into Agape Senior Living, a small, sweet group home in Scottsdale, for the duration of his life. In his last couple years Bill found it increasingly difficult to speak, but usually recognized his visiting family members and friends…and they all recognized that sweet smile of his!

On April 5, 2018, Bill Arbanas drew his last breath on this Earth to join his beloved Elie. He left this world a better place because of his presence in it. All of us who knew him and loved him will miss him immensely. Now it’s time to celebrate the life of a truly good man!

Bill Arbanas’ memorial church service will be held at Church of the Ascension on Saturday, May 26, at 11 a.m. The public is invited. Good will, coffee and donuts will be served in the Ascension Church hall immediately following the service. Please bring fond memories of Bill and share them freely.