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Bill Anderson's life full of feats comes to an end
Age meant little to Yuma native W.J. “Bill” Anderson.
A local cyclist known for his many bicycle feats, Bill was an inspiration to many. He was born June 5, 1926, and died Friday at age 86.
One of his major accomplishments included a 2,000-mile bicycle ride around the perimeter of Arizona in 2007 at age 81 on behalf of Crossroads Mission to call attention to the issues of hunger and homelessness.
He also rode his bike from Mexico to the Canadian border and back again in 2006 at age 80, from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego to the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. in 2004 at age 78 and a 777-mile trip from El Paso, Texas, to Yuma for his 77th birthday. All three trips were also in support of Crossroads Mission.
An award-winning master cyclist, Bill had won over 150 medals and trophies. He rode for the San Diego Cycle Vets bicycle club.
Bill, who always watched what he ate and never drank alcohol or smoked, was known for riding daily from Yuma to San Diego or to other destinations in his younger years.
For his 84th birthday he walked the Grand Canyon — from rim-to-rim, nonstop.
Before making the trip, he said, “I want to do something no other man my age has ever done before. No sense in doing something if you can't set a record doing it.”
Park rangers told him that to the best of their knowledge, he may have been the oldest person to accomplish the feat at that time. The roughly 25-mile hike from rim to rim took him 18 hours and eight minutes.
It wasn't his first time walking the route; he had also done it at the age of 82, but during his most recent trip he beat his previous time by more than an hour.
He used the hike as a way to raise money for Hospice, who took care of his brother for three months before he passed away.
His daughter, Debbie Anderson, said that even at age 86, he was still committed to working out six days a week. “The day before he died, I had called him and he was running up a hill.”
Debbie shared that he was training to walk the Grand Canyon again when he reached age 90. He also had the goal to do it again at age 100.
She said that while her father had inspired each of his daughters differently, he had a lasting impact on all of their lives.
Bill had said that he always pushed himself physically because he hoped to serve as an inspiration to people, especially the elderly, to become and stay more active.
“As long as I'm strong and healthy, I'll keep on riding.”
Bill served in World War II as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division and in the Korean War as a member of the Military Police Battalion. He was also a boxer in the Army, where he won at least 45 fights.
He graduated from Arizona State University in 1948 with a degree in construction engineering. He was also the first “Sparky” mascot for the university and was heavily involved in the athletics program at ASU as a football player, boxer and wrestler.
He was a Phoenix police officer for a few years before he moved back to Yuma to operate his father's W.J. Anderson Construction Co. until he retired at age 65. The business his father began was open for 86 years before it closed. His father was also the mayor of Yuma in 1953.
Bill was also a life member of the Yuma Jaycees and the Yuma County Sheriff's Posse.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Beryl; sister Deanie Holbrook; brother Bill Walker; daughters Debbie Anderson, Carol (Terry) Baker, Brenda (Cully) Kern; grandchildren Ryan Foerstner, Billy Foerstner, Jason Baker, Laurie Brown, Justin Baker, Clint Kern, Erica Kern; and great-grandchildren DeLaney Foerstner, Addison Foerstner, Jordan Baker, Jaymi Baker, Wyatt Brown, Weston Brown and Brooklyn Brown.
He was preceded in death by his father; his mother, Joyce Washburn; stepmother, Eunice Anderson; and brothers, S.L. “Sparky” Walker and Rudy Walker.
Funeral services are pending.