Bill Alkire (1927-2018)
William D. Alkire, 91, of Wooster passed on September 12, 2018. He was born on July 1, 1927 in Sardis, Ohio, to Richard Houston Alkire and Helen Louise Day Alkire. He graduated from Berlin High School in Delaware, Ohio, in 1946.
Bill spent one year in the U.S. Navy and 7 years in the Naval Air Reserve. He earned his B.S. in science education (1951) and master’s degree in social work (1957) at the Ohio State University. There at the Wesley Foundation he met his future wife, Marianne Harvey. They were blessed with two wonderful children, Christine C. Alkire and William H. Alkire.
Bill Alkire worked briefly for the YMCA in Cleveland and then relocated to Wooster, Ohio, to conduct small-group therapy at Boys’ Village and psychotherapy for the Counseling Center. As a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISD), Alkire wrote the plan to create the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Wayne and Holmes Counties (MHRB) in 1968 and served as its first director until his retirement in 1986.
Like the rest of his family, Bill showed a lifelong interest in music and dance. He and his brothers sang 3-part harmony everywhere they went. Bill sang in the choir at Great Lakes Naval Training and in the Men’s Glee Club at OSU. With his brother Dave, he performed a yodeling duet on the Ted Mac television show in 1952.
At age 15, Bill began leading play party dances for his Methodist Youth Fellowship in central Ohio. He called his first public square dances while still in high school and worked his way through Ohio State University by teaching ballroom and square dance for Fred Astaire Studios throughout the Columbus area.
In Wooster, Bill founded the Gnat Boxers Square Dance Club and prepared a generation of youth for square dance and square dance calling competitions at the Ohio State Fair. He introduced contra and English country dance to northeast Ohio, and his monthly old-time square dance ran continuously for 50 years. In 1979, he founded the Cedar Valley Cloggers, a black-shoe performance group that continues today.
Bill was the American dance leader for many years at Oglebay and Maine Folk Dance Camps, Folklore Village, and various Recreation Leaders’ Labs. For his lifetime service to Buckeye Leadership Workshop, he received an Emeritus Award in 1998. Bill served on staff at Pinewoods, Mendocino, Dancing Bears of Alaska, Michigan Dance Heritage, Cumberland Lakes, and, in 1994, the Silkeborg Festival in Denmark. From Kentucky Summer Dance School he received an appreciation award for his service from 1982-1986.
In 1997 he lost his wife Marianne to cancer and then, in 2000, married Susan L. English. With Susan, he co-founded the Madrigal Dancers, the intergenerational dance program at Terpsichore’s Holiday, and choreographed and performed “Minuet to Macarena” at various locations. At age 90, Bill was the 2018 recipient of the Lifetime Contribution Award from the national Country Dance and Song Society.
Bill valued dance a vehicle to healthy relationships and strong communities. His other skills and interests included forestry, wood working, basket and broom-making, organic gardening, and story-telling. Even in his final weeks, Bill continued to bring joy to various caretakers, Hospice volunteers, friends, and family with song, stories, and conversation.