Remembering Bill Farnum
January 8, 2021 4:15 am Back to All News
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.” - Gen. Patton
William “Bill” George Farnum, age 73, died after a brief but valiant fight with stage 4 cancer. His life, however, was defined by how he lived. Born in Pecos and raised both there and in Barstow, Tex., he graduated as a proud eagle from Pecos High School in 1965. Annually, since 1965, he and a group of classmates gathered—a testament to his desire to cultivate strong and steady friendships.
Hard work was the cornerstone of his life. At the tender age of 12, he began his first job as a soda jerk at Foster’s, followed by cleaning business offices at night and working as a sports reporter for the Pecos Enterprise. And, he’s one of the select few boys in history who earned Eagle Scout at age 12, days before he turned 13!
He graduated from West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) in 1969 with a B.A. in commercial art and a minor in chemistry. Bill was active in Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, ROTC, and was a Distinguished Military Graduate. He entered the US Army after graduation, went to Airborne School, and settled in Air Defense Artillery. He went to Vietnam in June of 1970 and returned a year later, having progressed as a second lieutenant, then the first lieutenant, and finally to captain on July 10, 1971, which coincided with his wedding date to Debbie.
After their wedding, Bill and Debbie lived in El Paso for six months while he was stationed at Fort Bliss as the chief burial officer. He left the US Army in 1972 and they moved to Perryton, Tex., so he could enter into the construction business with Debbie’s dad. As soon as his father-in-law, Jack, saw how well Bill drew renderings, he was sold. What nobody realized was just how well Bill could SELL. And, sell he did – all kinds of metal buildings for farmers and businesses. He was active in the Jaycees and the First United Methodist Church, where he and Debbie were married.
In 1975, they moved to Dumas, Tex., to grow the construction business, eventually buying Traeco Building Systems and running it successfully. He was an active member of the Dumas Noon Lions Club and three different churches, the First Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene and the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
A decade later, in 1985, Bill and Debbie closed his construction company and he joined A&S Steel Buildings in Amarillo as a salesman and helped expand the company by building privatized prisons throughout the United States. He then traveled extensively to Florida building prisons for Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. In 1999, Bill and his wife moved to Florida and he began work as the Vice President of Worldwide Construction for Wackenhut Corrections (now The GEO Group). He oversaw the construction of prisons in the US, Canada, Australia, Scotland, Puerto Rico, and South America.
In 2001, he was offered a position with White Construction Company in Austin and jumped at the chance to return to Texas. He was named the Vice President of Pre-Construction (business development) and was responsible for all activities that occur prior to signing a construction contract. He was the happiest he’d ever been at WCC, working with contractors and colleagues he had known for well over 40 years. He “retired” in 2017, only to begin a construction consulting business.
In addition to finding great professional success, Bill flourished in his faith after participating in an ACTS Retreat, held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in San Antonio. He went as a favor to a business associate, not knowing how it would change the trajectory of his life. Shortly after he attended, so did Debbie and they both made the decision to join the church. On March 30, 2013, they were fully received into the Catholic Church at St. Louis King of France. They were active parishioners, and Bill participated, co-directed, and directed numerous ACTS retreats; he loved this amazing ministry. Bill was also the current chair of the church’s building committee. He and his wife were also members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, supporting the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
He took inspiration from his two most important mentors—his father-in-law, Jack, and former boss, Bill Attebury—to mentor hundreds more men and women in the construction industry. For Bill, it was never about the “deal,” but about the people. He touched countless lives in unimaginable ways through his professional associations – American Correctional Association, Real Estate Council of Austin Board, Urban Land Institute, American Seniors Housing Association, LeadingAge, and the Society for Marketing Professional Services.
But above it all, it was his family that Bill loved the most. He and his wife Debbie were married 49 years and they had two children, Kathryn and Daniel, who blessed them with ten grandchildren. He rarely missed a sporting event, birthday, sacramental celebration, or holiday with them. His proudest title was undoubtedly, “Papa.”
Bill thought every food item should be eaten with Tabasco sauce! He loved playing golf, drinking martinis and Manhattans, watching sports (Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Texas Aggies, and Florida Gators), eating Mexican and spicy Thai food, teasing everyone, watching Hallmark movies and cooking a mean filet on the stove, finished off in the oven. He just loved helping and being with people and hospitality was his charism.