William “Bill” Cecil Abney, age 76, passed away on Friday, July 26, 2019 in Osage Beach, Missouri. Bill was born to Cecil and Georgia (Womack) Abney on February 4, 1943 in San Diego, California. Bill often said he was on his 7th life, and in truth, his experiences could fill an average life well lived 7 times over.
Bill graduated from Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, Illinois in 1961 where he played baseball and basketball. Classmates might remember Bill as a member of “The Fab 5” championship basketball starters. Bill was a talented multi-sport athlete, but continued to play basketball for 2 years on scholarship while attending South Eastern Illinois College.
In 1963 Bill began his long and accomplished career at Furnas Electric on the wiring line in Batavia, Illinois. In 1965 Bill was drafted into the U.S Army. Bill served his country as a military policeman while stationed in Frankfurt, Germany from 1965 - 1967. During this time Bill was able to visit many places throughout Europe, and often reflected on how it positively affected his world view for the rest of his life.
Bill returned to Furnas in Illinois as a production supervisor after his time in the Army. He worked many double-shifts and due to his tenacity, smarts, and strong work ethic was promoted in 1974 to Plant Superintendent for the company’s startup manufacturing facility in Osceola, IA. Bill continued his career at Furnas Electric in Iowa and was named Plant Manager for the Iowa Operation in 1981. He was extremely focused on innovation and continuous improvement with a particular focus on people. He championed new processes like vertical integration, and pioneered team approaches to allow any job on the floor to be done by any team, and involved employees with customer satisfaction directly through quality circle teams (EPICS). He aimed to support his local community and hired locally (employing almost 500 individuals the height of plant operations), served as Osceola’s chamber president, and regularly held family fun open house events for the surrounding community at the plant. In 1989 Bill received the company’s President’s Award for Excellence for demonstrating professionalism and leadership in making outstanding contributions to its goals and objectives. In 1991 Bill added FEMSA (Furnas’ Mexico Sister Plant) in Reynosa, Mexico under his management operations.
As a state leader in manufacturing processes, Bill served as an advisor to former Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad, and was relied on for policy direction by numerous members of the Iowa Legislature and Iowa’s federal representation. Bill continued to positively impact Iowa’s business and manufacturing footprint throughout the state, nation and internationally as a member of the board of directors and legislative committee at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI). He was honored to additionally serve as the organization’s Annual Convention Chairman. Bill retired from Siemens Energy & Automation/Furnas Electric in 2002 after 39 years of employment.
Bill spent some time enjoying endless fishing and golfing, but couldn’t stay busy enough for himself. In 2005 after moving to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri full time, Bill reconnected with long-time friends Mark, Brian, Rick and Judy Barrett. He took the position of marina manager at Shorty Pants. He quickly became a favorite to the staff and customers alike. He was a father figure and wonderful friend and brought his same drive for excellence to the marina helping Shorty Pants secure the “Best of the Lake” award for #1 Gas Dock for 6 years running.
Bill was of course not the things he did in life, but a culmination of how and with whom he did them. One of his favorite quotes he attributed to Yogi Berra as saying, “no matter where you go, there you are.” And although he used this quip often in the context of a joke it represents his authentic ability to be present in every moment.
Bill’s family was priority number one. He married Liz on May 9, 1986. Bill was a happy romantic who wrote perfectly sappy cards and performed small and grand gestures equally, literally until the end of his life here on Earth. He was a loving, generous and extremely dedicated dad to his daughters Christina and Amanda, and step-son Steve. He managed to be there to cheer on his kids at sporting events, dance recitals, preschool through college graduation, proms and literally every other event (even though it often required his expert marathon driving skills to get there on time). He was very proud of his kids, but even prouder of his grandkids. Papa Bill will always be Camryn, Nolan and Maren’s hero, and Layla Cecile will grow up knowing how much he loved her too. His greatest pride was these 4!
Bill had many talents and interests. Some less known such as; yoyo champion, cartoon artist, and his use of broken GI german. Other things were well known such as; his love of golf, fishing, baseball, travelling and animals. He loved these things, but was more interested in the people he shared them with or friends he made. Bill was a friend to so many in his life. He wasn’t just an acquaintance, but a significant “family” member to people of all ages, from all walks of life, from all over. He will be missed by countless people who may not know one another, but share in common a piece of Bill in their hearts forever.
Bill loved life because of the people in it, and will be remembered for his commitment to loving all of those who lived it out to its fullest with him.
Bill is survived by his loving wife Liz; his daughter Christina Bahe (Dwayne) and granddaughter Camryn of West Des Moines, Iowa; his daughter Amanda Thompson (Tony) and grandson Nolan and granddaughters Maren and Layla of Elkhart, Iowa; his sister Cecilia “Sis” Staffey (Phillip) of Saint Charles, Illinois; his sister Patricia “Patt” Tesinsky of Phoenix, Arizona; nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews; as well as many friends and loved ones who he considered to be his family.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Cecil and Georgia Abney and his baby sister Victoria Abney.
Celebration of Life will be held Tuesday, August 13, 2019, 5:00-8:00 pm Dog Days Bar and Grill, 1232 Jeffries Road, Osage Beach, MO