Boyd Magers Remembers Bill Witney

Bill Witney’s tough Marine veneer—garnered from WWII—often hid a warm, generous man. I first met Bill—and his then wife Bev—at film festivals in Knoxville, Memphis and especially Sonora, CA—always getting better acquainted. They graciously invited us to stay with them when we were in their area of Pioneer, CA, which we did on a couple of occasions.

We’d talk about Republic Pictures, John Carroll, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Bill’s serials, “Bonanza”—even Virgil Vogel, a fellow director whom Bill caught watching Bill’s daily rushes so he could “borrow” tricks and ideas. Bill ran Vogel out of the screening room with the strict admonition to never let him catch him doing that again. The exclaimed words “Virgil Vogel!?!”  became a running joke between Bill and I—and it still today brings a warm laugh, a tear and a smiling memory to my wife Donna and I when we see Vogel’s name on a TV show’s credits, as we both loudly exclaim“Virgil Vogel!?!”

Donna and I treasure not only the copy of Bill’s book he gave us, but a set of his own hand-made coasters and a bucket of the largest pine cones you ever saw, which he gathered from his yard and presented to us.

But the most loving thing he ever did—an action that displayed not only his tough Marine background but his caring spirit—was when we visited Bill and Bev sometime after his stroke. We sat in the house talking with Bev. Bill’s mind was alert but his speech and movement were severely impaired. As the conversation carried on we noticed Bill had left the room. We inquired to Bev where he’d gone—then noticed he was slowly but determinedly outside walking around the house. Bev injected, “He just wants to show you he can do it and has the will and spirit to recover.”

A memory and a man I will never forget. A truly inspirational man.