Bill Reed, the gentle, kind, irascible, uncompromising curmudgeon who served as editor of The Highlands Voice from 1997 until 2002 (second longest tenure in Voice history) died on September 26, 2019, in Viola, Wisconsin. He was 93.
Bill was born and raised in Connecticut in a family with three older siblings, and attended public schools there. After high school he enlisted in the Navy and served in World War II. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1952 and in later years did graduate work at the University of South Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Most of his life he worked in various positions in education. His interests were hiking, camping, the natural world, and listening to music.
For twenty seven years he lived in a self-constructed home in the wilds of Raleigh County (.7 miles from the end of the hard road, with part of that last stretch doubling as the creek bed), growing his own food, chopping his own wood, and trying to have as little impact upon the land as he could manage. He had a couple of human neighbors and an abundance of assorted furred and feathered neighbors.
For some of this time, he worked as an environmental activist and served as the editor of The Highlands Voice for five years.
Most West Virginia Highlands Conservancy members will remember him as Voice editor. What many may not know is that, so far as production was concerned, he was the last of a breed. The Voice is now edited using desktop publishing software, the final product zipped off by email to the printer or for web posting. Bill (and those before him) did it the old fashioned way. He would lay out the Voice on Voice page size pieces of cardboard. He would print out the stories, snip them to fit, and paste them on the cardboard sheets. When it was all finished, he would drive the finished product to the printer. Visitors to his home would find physical “paste up” galley sheets in preparation for publication of The Highlands Voice seemingly anywhere there was a flat surface (tables, beds, even on a floor in one room).
Bill would describe himself as a “revolutionary” although not in any mean or violent way. He was just agitated by what he perceived as an unfair balance of economic and political power in the larger world around us. And he saw that unfair balance of power manifested, among other ways, in excessive and unnecessary assaults upon the natural world and its life support system we call the environment. To fix that would take a revolution; whether the revolution was spiritual, economic, and political or something else he never did say.
When Bill was living in Raleigh County, his approach to “land management” was always one of benign neglect. He cut what trees he needs for firewood; he kept clear enough ground for his home and garden. The rest he wanted to leave alone, allowing it to eventually reach the condition it was in two hundred years ago.
Bill took seriously his belief about the importance of living lightly on the Earth. He always drove a three cylinder Geo Metro (42 MPG). Bill was a big guy; it was always a sight to see him arrive at Board meetings and unfold himself out of that tiny car.
He leaves behind two daughters and their spouses—Susan Reed and Peter Schmidt and Kathy and Alan Andrews, as well as a granddaughter, Victoria Andrews.
He left instructions that his remains were to be donated to science.