William J. McFarland was called by our Lord on January 19, 2023, dying peacefully in his sleep in his bed and in his Wauwatosa home, where he lived for 58 years. Bill was 94 years old. He was born in 1928 in Schenectady, NY, the younger of two children born to James Lee McFarland and Frances Ludden McFarland. He graduated from Nott Terrace High School (he jokingly referred to it as Nott Terrace Country Day School) in 1946 and earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Yale University in 1950. He returned to Schenectady following graduation. During those years he became an avid downhill skier and developed close life-long friendships. He was quite the ladies man in high school and in college, and for 7 years after college, but he finally settled down and married Elizabeth (Betty) A. Bibber in 1957, a marriage that would last the rest of his life, over 65 years.
Bill began working at the age of 14 and retired at the age of 71. He worked as an engineer at General Electric in Schenectady, New York, and then he moved to sales and never looked back, starting with sales at GE in Milwaukee. He always remained very technical and this enabled his sales career to flourish at GE and elsewhere. After working in Milwaukee for GE, the family then moved to St. Louis so Bill could take a job in product marketing and sales at Emerson Electric for a little more than two years. The family then returned to Milwaukee as Bill joined Harnischfeger in sales management. He finished his career working in sales management at Cutler-Hammer (Eaton Corporation) for 20 years before he retired. He was a respected expert in electronic controls for large electrical motors. His genius was bringing a stalled business into new markets. He was a senior member of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and served on various standards committees. He often authored articles for trade magazines promoting his company's products. He was dedicated to his work. At age 70, he climbed up to the cab of a malfunctioning electric overhead crane, much to the consternation of his watching customers.
After retirement, he and his wife Betty spent time traveling in Alaska and Europe. They traveled to Italy, Paris, the WWII Normandy beaches, Spain, Morocco, Scotland, and Ireland where he tried find his Mother's origins (her family emigrated from Castlebar, Ireland in the 1840's). Their favorite tour trip was to Alaska. Bill also traveled on business to South Korea and Japan, and throughout the US.
Bill was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He had a great sense of humor and made life an adventure, taking the family pond skating, doing 100-mile bike rides, cross-country skiing, attending concerts and sporting events, and going camping. He was an avid hunter all of his life. He bought a thoroughbred Springer Spaniel puppy and trained him to hunt pheasants, his favorite hunting activity, and throughout all the years of Sam's life they hunted many pheasants. He also took his sons and daughter goose hunting, and took his sons duck hunting as well. He took up deer hunting with his sons in 1983, and later took up turkey hunting. In the late 90's and early 2000's, he started taking annual trips to Wyoming to fulfill his dream of western hunting, hunting antelope on ranches near Cheyenne. Each of his sons and his nephew also had a chance to experience the western hunting adventure. Last fall was the first time since 1983 that he failed to go deer hunting.
Bill considered himself a lucky guy. He had a wonderful wife who stayed home to raise his four children, he had a varied professional career, and was surrounded by lifelong friends from work and church. His Roman Catholic faith was very important to him. Throughout this time, he was active at St. Pius X parish for almost 50 years, serving as a greeter as well as a lector.
Bill said his proudest achievement was raising those four wonderful children, and liked to brag about the degrees they achieved, the universities they attended, and their achievements along the way (in the obituary he wrote for himself, he even listed all of these). He instilled in them his strong work ethic, drive for excellence, deep curiosity, and love of learning. He dedicated hours to helping them develop their skills – batting practice, engineering wooden race cars for the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Race, and attending their athletic games and concerts. His children were active in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, two sons becoming Eagle Scouts. Bill was very involved with the various Scout troops and summer camping up north. For the last years of his life, he gathered the kids and grandkids for an annual reunion on a Wisconsin lake to celebrate family.
He was predeceased by his parents, James Lee McFarland and Frances Ludden McFarland, and his brother Malcolm McFarland. He is survived by his wife Betty, his daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) J. McFarland (Jerry Schaack who passed almost a year ago) and his sons William (Bill) J. McFarland, Jr. (Anne Murphy), James L. McFarland (Jaime Sebastian Andres), and Michael A. McFarland (Cheryl Hersh), his nephew Malcolm McFarland, his niece Meg Symington (nee McFarland), as well as grandchildren Margaret Schaack, Amanda McFarland, Alice Schaack, Claire McFarland, Sam McFarland, Cooper McFarland, and Brooke McFarland.
Visitation will be held Thursday, January 26, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. with a Vigil Service at 7:00 p.m. at Schmidt & Bartelt funeral home, 10121 W. North Avenue, Wauwatosa. There will be an additional visitation on Friday, January 27 at 10:00 a.m. with a funeral mass at 11:00 a.m. at St. Pius X Church, 2506 N. Wauwatosa Ave., Wauwatosa. Donations in his memory can be made to St. Pius X Church.
We find comfort in the thought that Bill is with our Lord, walking in the pheasant fields of heaven with his dog Sam.