BILL Clegg and Bill Critch were best mates in their teenage years and although their lives took separate paths, they always stayed in touch.
The recent death of Bill Critch in Burien, Washington USA, was the final chapter in the lives of two very different characters who forged their way in life and made a difference in the lives of many.
Although his family had notched up three generations in Australia, after immigrating in the 1800s as gold miners, William Henry (Bill) Critch was born in Alameda, California in 1934. In 1948, orphaned and barely a teenager, Bill was shipped to Boggabri, and placed in the care of his unmarried sister, who married shortly after and moved away. Cut loose from adult supervision at the age of 15, Bill Critch was taken under the wings of two families in Gunnedah - the Cleggs and John and Violet Jones.
When Bill Clegg died in 2013, Bill Critch recalled the warm welcome he had received from the Jones family who gave him a place to live while he finished Third Year at Gunnedah Intermediate High School. His social anchor came through Colin and Ada and Bill Clegg and their strong connection St Joseph's Catholic Parish. Bill Clegg became his "older brother" and mentor.
After completing his education at Riverview College in Sydney, Bill Critch returned to the United States in 1955, but always stayed in close contact with his mate in Gunnedah.
Bill Clegg went on to serve the community in many ways, including mayor of Gunnedah for 11 years. In 1958 Bill Critch was commissioned as a pilot in the USAF. Shortly afterward, he married Marlene Prosser - the love of his life and affectionately known as Bunny. Together they raised two daughters - Tammy and Sheila - and Bill's life revolved around his "girls".
Leaving the service, he became an airline pilot until grounded by heart disease. After graduating from the University of Puget Sound, he worked at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company for 20 years, where his desk always boasted a large jar of Vegemite.
On several return visits to Gunnedah, Bill and Bunny Critch noted the special respect given to their friend Bill and in later years when Bill Clegg visited America, his talk was always about Gunnedah. He truly loved his home town and this profound love and yearning for the town of his youth, never left William Critch.
Bill's family and friends said he would always be remembered as a professional Australian with an Antipodean sense of humour - his love of the Australian bush, his fighting spirit and 'never look back' attitude.
They said that his motto - adopted from his Jesuit high school, Riverview - "Quantam potes, tantum aude" could be loosely translated in Australian patois to "give it a bloody go, mate!"
In his later years Bill enjoyed his home in Burien Town Square, city life and flying his XPlane simulator. He loved being with his family and stayed in touch with the community through Gunnedah Memories on Facebook - but longed to visit Australia one more time.
William Henry Critch is survived by his wife Marlene (Bunny) of Burien, and two daughters, Tamara (George) Wilson and Sheila (Hans) Leitzinger.