The Celebration of Bill Canning’s Well-Lived Life

Bill Canning happy outdoors with his best buddy.

Bill Canning happy outdoors with his best buddy.

Now and then we are fortunate enough to come across people who have “The Ripple Effect”.

The Ripple Effect:  Putting your energy into others by generously sharing your passions and beliefs.  Your positive effect on others can be followed outwards, incrementally influencing and changing people’s lives.

One such person was Bill Canning, aka “Wild Bill”.  Bill Canning passed after living 82 wonderful years.  Bill was my friend Candra’s father.  Candra always talked about the fabulous relationship she had with her father and when I saw them together I could see in their fun banter how much they loved each other.

When I was invited to his celebration of life and saw the location was a winery in Northern California, I knew this wasn’t going to be just another funeral. Another hint: we were instructed to wear cowboy attire since Bill was a cattle rancher and almond farmer.

Cowboy Themed "Wild Bill" Celebration of Life

Cowboy Themed “Wild Bill” Celebration of Life

When we arrived to the outdoor garden, we were instructed to fill out a name tag with our name and how we knew “Wild Bill”. We were then handed a beautiful program printed on velum paper entitled, “Celebration of Bill Canning’s Well-Lived Life.” I knew Bill loved the outdoors and it made perfect sense that the entire event was outside.

Celebration of Bill Canning's Well-Lived Life Program

Celebration of Bill Canning’s Well-Lived Life Program

Name tags for Celebration of Life

Name tags where we wrote “How We Knew Wild Bill”

How we knew Bill name tags great idea for personalizing a celebration of life.

“How we knew Bill”  name tags great idea for personalizing a celebration of life.

Uplifting Sunflowers for a Celebration of life

Uplifting Sunflowers for a Celebration of life

Beautiful displays of uplifting sunflowers were on the tables and on each side of the entry way. Tables and umbrellas were set up with red and white checkered linens with bright yellow napkins and sunflower center pieces.

The Sunflowers added such a bright touch to all the tables. No dreary funeral flower here!

The Sunflowers added such a bright touch to all the tables. No dreary funeral flower here!

There was a large table set up with a computer playing a slide show of Bills adventures along with photos in frames and photo albums.

Photo Albums Add a Great Touch to a Celebration of Life

Photo Albums Add a Great Touch to a Celebration of Life

Monitor showed photos from Bill's adventures

Monitor showed photos from Bill’s adventures

In keeping with the cowboy theme, a wonderful buffet BBQ was served.

Consider a BBQ for a celebration of life. It was the perfect fit for Wild Bill!

Consider a BBQ for a celebration of life. It was the perfect fit for Wild Bill!

There was BBQ beef, chicken, fabulous chili, a green salad, fruit salad and rolls. The catering company did a great job with the food. To drink, there was beer, wine, water and lemonade.

While we finished eating we were welcomed by Russ Canning, Bills son. Russ served as the host and introduced Bill’s good friend and fraternity brother Judge Coley Fannin. Judge was quite a character and was wearing a hideous jacket with a black bow tie.

Bill's longtime friend adds some fun by wearing a really ugly jacket Bill gave him as a joke

Bill’s longtime friend adds some fun by wearing a really ugly jacket Bill gave him as a joke

Bill's Grandson walked around the table showing the photo of Bill give his buddy the ugly jacket.

Bill’s Grandson walked around the table showing the photo of Bill give his buddy the ugly jacket.

Turns out he was wearing it because as a joke, Bill had given it to him. He had a photo blown up showing Bill giving him the jacket. He had a young grandson walk around the tables showing everyone the poster sized photo. Everyone had a good laugh.

Two of Bill’s business partners, Phil Balmat and Justin Butchert spoke and expressed how Bill partnered with them and how helpful he was in their careers. They both mentioned how his words and actions influenced them and have caused the “ripple effect” in their lives and their family’s lives.

One of “Wild Bills” lasting legacies will be starting YLO (The San Joaquin Valley Young Leaders Organization). YLO was dedicated to enhancing the quality of rural life by aiding in the development of community leaders. It ran successfully for 25 years and had over 600 graduates. Two of the graduates spoke and told very entertaining stores of meeting “Wild Bill” and the crazy antics he would pull as they would climb mountains in the Sierra Mountains. Most of the young members of the group had never been out of their community,  let alone climbed mountains, but such was the dream and vision of Bill Canning. Hearing the young men talk about how YLO had taken them on all sorts of adventures and how the program helped them make lifelong friends and gain confidence was inspiring. Again the “ripple effect” was mentioned.

A book handed out to guests, "The Wild Bill Integrity Handbook and Campfire Pocket Guide"

“The Wild Bill Integrity Handbook and Campfire Pocket Guide” was handed out to family and friends, as an everlasting reminder of how he lived his life.

It was during this time that several of the grandchildren handed out, “The Wild Bill Integrity Handbook and Campfire Pocket Guide”. Once we all had a copy Candra, Bill’s daughter,  got up and as a group we read out loud a verse from the book called Enthusiam:

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes
your hope rise to the stars
Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes,
it is the swing in your gait,
the grip of your hand,
the irresistible surge of your will and
your energy to execute your ideas.
Enthusiasts are fighters.
They have fortitude.
They have staying qualities.
Enthusiasm is at the bottom
of all progress!
With it there is accomplishment.
Without it there are only alibis.
– Henry Ford’s Fireplace Motto

Candra leading friends and family to reading "Enthusiasm"

Candra leading friends and family to reading “Enthusiasm”

I think at that moment we all felt the presence of “Wild Bill” and felt him looking over us proudly thinking of all the “Enthusiasm” he had shared with so many.

Reading from Wild Bills handbook

Reading from Wild Bills handbook

Candra gave a wonderful heartfelt talk, sharing stories of being “Wild Bills” daughter. We found ourselves laughing and crying at the same time.

We then were invited for dessert of caramel and hot fudge ice cream sundaes with whipped cream of course.

Yep, they served sundaes and later s'mores.

Yep, they served sundaes and later s’mores.

Campfire where people gathered to share more Wild Bill stories and make s'mores

Campfire where people gathered to share more Wild Bill stories and make s’mores

The campfire was being set up and chairs gathered around so people could share more stories and roast marshmallows on sticks to make s’mores.

Lastly, we wrote tributes to Bill on lanterns that were then lit and released in to the dark night.

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We wrote our final farewell to Bill on the lanterns and they were lit and released into the dark night.

As I left, I was deeply inspired by all Bill Canning had accomplished in his life and the “ripple effect” that was clearly seen at this fabulous Celebration of Bill Canning’s Well-Lived Life.

Hopefully you’ll be inspired to add some of these creative ideas into the celebration of life that you are planning.

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