bill diedrich

Longtime Alaska resident William James "Bill" Diedrich, 73, died Jan. 2, 2010, at home in the presence of his family after a long illness.

A Mass of Christian burial, presided over by the Rev. Steven Moore, will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Saint Andrew Catholic Church in Eagle River. A rosary will directly precede.

Bill was born May 23, 1936, in South Bend, Ind., to Emil and Augusta Diedrich.

He joined the Army Signal Corps in 1955 and served for three years. During that period, while stationed at Camp Desert Rock in Nevada, he took part (under orders) in the military's nuclear testing program. In 1958, he moved to Alaska and found employment as a technician on the White Alice project, eventually becoming the site supervisor by 1965.

In 1971 he moved to Anchorage, where he was responsible for setting up microwave links that allowed the city its first experience of live television. Bill went on to install television transmission and microwave communication systems in remote rural Alaskan sites, as well as on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, from 1974-1977. From 1978 until his retirement in 1996, he worked as a technician at the Eagle River Alascom Earth Station.

His only extended leaves from Alaska occurred during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, when he was present in the field with the troops providing satellite communications.

Bill is survived by his steadfast wife of 35 years, Cecilia Diedrich; his son, Wolf; his two grandchildren, Joachim and Noah; as well as six children and their families from his wife's previous marriage: Frankie Janke, Deborah Brady, Jim Hartley, Joe Hartley, Jerry Hartley and Jeff Hartley. The extended family includes 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind two close cousins in South Bend, Steve Megyese and Carolyn Jena.

Bill was a man of intensely cultivated and widely varied interests. He was an avid Super Cub pilot, expert woodworker, amateur astronomer, keen dancer, skilled cook, persistent gardener and loyal Macintosh enthusiast. Many knew him as Mr. Fix-It. Perhaps his oddest hobby was raising exotic chickens. These won many a blue ribbon at the Alaska State Fair and ensured his popularity with the grandchildren.

His distaste of meaningless banter often made him appear aloof and disengaged. He was a scientist and philosopher at heart, and greatly enjoyed conversations of deep significance (especially over a beer). Bill longed for the grandest of explanations, but he respected the boundaries of man's ability to explain everything.

Bill maintained a straightforward outlook on life, a quirky sense of humor and a love for all that is innocent and honest up until the end.