William Lewis Melzer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on September 29, 1952, joining his parents Bob and Lois Melzer and older brother Hank. When Bill was 6 years old, his dad, who had a background in retail, decided to move the family west to open up his own Spudnuts donut shop in Scottsdale, Arizona. At young ages, Bill and Hank both worked for the family business. A younger brother Tom was born into their family.
Bill attended Coronado High School where he was on the school newspaper staff, which provided him the welcomed perk of skipping classes to report on extracurricular school activities. An avid reader from his youth, Bill read each volume of the family’s collection of Encyclopedia Britannica more than once, turning him into something of an encyclopedia himself. He read thousands of books over his lifetime and loved discussing them. Recognizing Bill’s aptitude for school, several of his teachers excused him from classes, only requiring him to show up for the final exams. This allowed Bill time to get his first job outside the family business at the age of 15. By the time he was 17 he had a resume to rival that of many college students and was hired at the Yellow Front store in Tempe.
It was at this Yellow Front store where Bill met a young job applicant named Helen Passey. Though this store wasn’t in need of another employee, Bill lobbied the manager to hire the beautiful blond-haired girl with whom he was immediately enamored. Fortunately, he prevailed upon the manager, as Bill and Helen were married three years later. The couple started dating quickly and worked side by side for about a year and half until Bill realized that if he wanted Helen, he was going to need to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized at 19 and has been a devoted member since. In 1973, Bill and Helen were married in the Mesa, Arizona Temple for time and all eternity, which gives Helen great comfort to know that their current separation will only be temporary.
Soon after their marriage, Bill graduated from ASU in accounting (despite his dream job being that of weatherman) and received his first church calling—early morning seminary teacher. It was while fulfilling this calling that Bill gained a sure testimony of the Book of Mormon. He fulfilled many callings over his life, but especially loved serving as Priest Quorum Advisor, where he was able to work with and mentor 16- to 18-year-old young men, and nursery, where he loved being with little children. Over the last many years, Bill served as Ward Clerk for the Mesa 30th Ward and deeply valued the many relationships he built there.
After the marriage was already official, Helen told Bill that her life goal was to have 12 children. Luckily for everyone, Bill also loved children and together they had 9 of their own, with their first child, Emily (1974 – 2022) born in November 1974. Bill was a dedicated father who was rarely photographed not holding a young child. He loved his children and often took them with him to work and on his trips out of town.
In February 1975, 22-year-old Bill was offered a managerial job at the Yellow Front store in Safford, Arizona. While living there, Bill was asked by a family friend to also work as the night manager at a recently opened McDonald’s location. This was the first instance of something which Bill did for much of his life—simultaneously have two full-time jobs.
In Safford, second daughter Rachel was added to the family. After 4 years in Safford, Bill was promoted at Yellow Front and they returned to Mesa, where third and fourth children, Ryan and Anna, were born. In 1982 when Bill was 29, Helen’s sister and brother-in-law died in a plane crash. Bill and Helen’s home was blessed with the addition of nieces and nephews Doug, Susie, Jimmy, and Kristie, with whom Bill remained close over the years. The family continued to grow with the arrivals of Angela, Steven, Daniel, James, and Lilly. At one point, Bill explained to Helen that she couldn’t have all the babies in the world!
Bill eventually became a regional manager and then Senior Vice President. Just before hundreds of Yellow Fronts closed all at once, Bill decided it was time to change careers. In 1988, he became an importer of men’s clothing and moved the family to Poway, California. Their time in California felt like a vacation for Helen and the kids, but Bill worked hard and traveled extensively to such far-flung destinations as New York, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. After 4 years, Bill decided to return to AZ and open his own general stores on the Navajo Reservation.
The family moved to Snowflake, Arizona, so he could be close to his stores. Eventually, he built a total of 11 stores on reservations in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. He was the supervisor and buyer for all 11 stores which kept him very busy and constantly traveling. After another 4 years the family moved to Mesa so he could be closer to the airport.
Bill eventually sold his stores and became the manager of the Mesa Deseret Industries. While there, Bill managed the retail operations, but also provided vocational and life skills training to countless individuals and employees, many of whom credit him as a profound influence in their lives. He was also asked to help manage the building and opening of a new Deseret Industries location in Phoenix. After years at Deseret Industries and simultaneously owning and operating his landscaping company, Pinnacle Maintenance Systems, Bill decided to retire from retail and focus on Pinnacle. At his peak, Pinnacle was landscaping and maintaining over 60 properties, primarily hotels and shopping centers. Bill’s white work truck he used during his years at Pinnacle was charmingly battle-worn and sported the extremely apt customized license plate WRK2HRD. Over the last few years, Bill developed atrial fibrillation, resulting in several ablation surgeries to his heart and requiring him to reduce his workload at Pinnacle. True to form, he quickly got a bonus job at Enterprise Car Rental, which he very much enjoyed.
Bill loved sports. As a child, he obsessed over baseball statistics. As an adult, he made many friends while playing early morning basketball where he showed off his left-handed jumper. In his later years, he could often be found in his recliner in front of a broadcast of a baseball or basketball game, often questioning the refereeing but even more often dozing off for a few minutes.
Last year, Bill was diagnosed with 100% blockage of the main artery of his heart. Because his heart was weakened by the ablation surgeries, he was not a candidate for heart surgery. Sadly, he passed away on August 7, 2023, of cardiac arrest.
Bill lived a long life full of service to his family and many friends. He loved to chat and share factoids and stories with whomever he could. Social media opened up a whole new world of connection for him. He embodied the principles of kindness, hard work, and tireless devotion. He loved Helen and his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as well as his extended family and many friends, and, in his last few years, took efforts to make sure they knew it. Bill was a friend to many and an example to all of us. He will be deeply missed.
For those who cannot attend but want to watch online, this link has been provided: https://zoom.us/j/91733221138
Arrangements by Bunker’s University Chapel, www.bunkerfuneral.com. Should this obituary appear anywhere but bunkerfuneral.com, please check our website for accurate details and service information.