William's Story

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BANGOR - William Gray Valleau, born July 5th, 1932, passed away in Bangor at Eastern Maine Medical Center, five days after his 83rd birthday, on July 10, 2015.

He was born and grew up in Morristown, NJ, a son to the late Thomas Gray and Myrtle Burr Valleau. The outdoors and Boy Scouts were a large part of his early life. The Whippany River and Speedwell Lake, which were a short walk from his childhood home in Morristown, were the sites of many adventures. As a child, Bill recalled fearful ammunition convoys from the Picatinny Arsenal passing by his home at night during WWII. To ease his anxiety during the war he spent those summers on the Jersey shore with his grandfather, in Cape May. His grandfather was a great proponent of homegrown lima beans and musk melons.

He recalled when the coastal town required mandatory lights out to avoid being the target of submarines. He was deeply affected during the war by seeing causalities coming ashore from the recovered sunken ships. As a 15-year old Boy Scout his adventures took him to the 1947 World Jamboree in Moisson, France. He traveled via ship across the Atlantic aboard the US Army Transport General Simon B. Buckner. He was very proud to have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. An avid runner, he ran track in high school and excelled at the hurdles. He ran in the Penn Relays while in high school, and went on to run track for the University of Kentucky.

He served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves from April 17, 1953 to April 17, 1955. In 1955, he achieved his BS at University of Kentucky, Lexington. It was there that he met Evelyn and they married in 1956. He served active duty in the US Army from January 24, 1956 to December 18, 1957 and was awarded the Good Conduct Medal. The newlyweds experienced Germany together during the second half of Bill's tour of duty. They fell in love with the sights and lights of Ulm. The young couple developed a great admiration for the people of their host country struggling to rebuild their country after the war. In Nuremburg, Germany he ran the hurdles at a meet while serving in the Army, a story he told fondly.

After the military, Bill and Evie started their family and also moved to New Brunswick, NJ, where Bill earned his MS in 1962 and Ph. D in 1963 at Rutgers University. The young family then moved north to make Maine their home. A Professor of Zoology and Endocrinology at University of Maine at Orono for 34 years, Bill was Zoology Department head for eight of those years. He was very proud of many of his students. For his dedication to education and to his students, he was named by the University of Maine Alumni Association as the 1974 Distinguished Maine Professor of the Year.

He enjoyed canoeing the many waterways of the Penobscot Valley with his three boys, and led Boy Scout trips down the West Branch of the Penobscot, Aroostook and Allagash Rivers. For a number of years he hunted ducks at Pushaw Lake and also had an excellent bird dog, a German shorthair pointer named Spook von Wasservögel ("Spooky"). He enjoyed autumn afternoon outings with his dog and a son during which the gamebirds were completely safe. During deer season he would find a comfortable spot to sit, eat sandwiches and apples he had tucked in his jacket pockets, and nap while the boys hunted.

Bill was considered a favorite lecturer by many of his students of zoology however his interests were not confined to science. Having a great interest in history, especially WWII and the American Civil War, Bill assembled a considerable collection of books. Visits with Bill would often include sharing his insights into dramatic events of both wars. His interest in a subject could be quite infectious. He passed on his great interest in WWII to at least one of his grandsons who was actually touring the Normandy invasion beaches at the time of Bill's death. His interest in hunting is passionately and successfully pursued by his children and grandchildren. Bill had a great love and knowledge of the out of doors and believed in the preservation of wild places.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 59 years, Lavonne Evelyn Valleau. He is also survived by son Steven and wife Bethany Hanson of Lamoine, daughter Lisa and husband Mark Lithall of Arlington Heights, Illinois, son Dana and wife Kate of Liberty, and son Bill and wife Danielle of Searsmont. He is also survived by his six grandchildren Gordon, Wade, Jack, Ezekiel, Sam, and Jocelyn, who filled him with pride.

A gathering to share memories of Bill will be held August 22 at 2 to 4 PM at the Buchanan Alumni House on the University of Maine Campus, 160 College Avenue, Orono.

Donations in his name may be made to Maine Public Broadcasting Network, or to the Orono Land Trust, P.O. Box 4, Orono, Maine 04473.
Published on  August 8, 2015
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