by Whitney Smith
While every vexillologist will have a different memory or image of him, it is significant that there can scarcely be any vexillologist in the world who does not know of our late colleague. From the early days of our nascent science, he worked at every opportunity in every way with every one to create and solidify and expand knowledge and understanding and activities regarding flags. If not all his efforts were successful, he well understood the principle that only boundless enthusiasm, dogged tenacity, vivid imagination, and relentless energy would help us achieve success.
Inevitably, others were caught up in that spirit and were moved to make contributions which they otherwise would have avoided or perhaps not even thought of. No gathering, no written word, no printed illustration or electronically broadcast graphic, no conversation or meeting, no avenue of research, no opportunity for expanding vexillological horizons was ignored or avoided by William when it was in his power to pursue them.
That power is gone, but his spirit lives on. The lessons he taught and the ones he learned are now the heritage of those of us who remain to carry on the unfinished tasks he held constantly before him when alive. I imagine William in the great vexillological Valhalla, the very image of that "great god Vexor" to whom he sometimes referred in Flagmaster, laughing at us and at himself as we struggle with those tasks.
No better words can be found to express his spirit than those he himself wrote in an imaginary interview on the occasion of his 60th birthday, just last year. Responding to the question he was frequently asked by real interviewers "How did you first get interested in flags?" he responded:
This is always a startling question for a vexillologist, because it implies that his interest is an unusual or peculiar one, instead of being the very stuff of life. It is like asking, when did you first start breathing?
William started breathing vexillology before the word itself was invented and never ceased doing so.
To the New England Journal of Vexillology page.