Kenwood Press

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Forum Oakmont: 08/15/2012

Bill Anderson – Oakmont’s Gray Eminence

He is one of our village’s most prominent members, yet as a resident claimed, one of its most discreet and unpretentious personalities. Never seeking acclamation, Bill Anderson has over the years held more prestigious assignments than practically anybody else.

When Oakmont was seeking a new association manager in 2010, the OVA board of directors elected him chairman of the Search Committee. He served three different times on the Nominating Committee for new directors. He became an organizational member of the Oakmont Community Foundation, remaining the treasurer to this day, lobbying to meet one more $1,000 challenge grant. He was a founder and vice chair of the all-important Audio/Visual Technical Committee. Add to this list the presidency of the Tennis Club, the Sunday Symposium, director of the Digital Camera Club, the Mac Computer Club and original member of Oakmont’s Long Range Planning Committee, among others, and you catch a glimpse of the spirit of volunteerism and energy that exemplify Bill Anderson and distinguish his life.

A third generation Californian, Bill was born and raised in Oakland. After attending Oakland High School, he enlisted in the Navy and after two years enrolled at UC Berkeley. He chose Business Administration as his major, but with an early interest in advertising, took every course available that led to proficiency in that promising field.

Through his fraternity he had made connections with all the major advertising agencies in San Francisco, only to learn that overqualified candidates from the East, wanting to live the California dream, were given priority.

He was advised to go into sales for three years and then to try his luck again. And thus Bill became a salesman in the printing industry. After six years, he realized the cut-throat nature of the advertising business, and accepted instead a job offer from a major national paper mill, headquartered in Boston. With his wife and two small children he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a small town in Maine. After living through the initial culture shock, Bill threw himself with vigor into learning the trade of making paper, starting in the woodlands, through the pulp mills, to the paper machines.

Already knowing the intricacies of the printing business, he was sent to New York as a mill representative until promoted by the company to become its West Coast district manager. From his offices in San Francisco, the young executive covered seven states, calling on paper distributors, as well as on the printing, graphic arts and advertising industries.

Eight years later saw the family back in New York, this time as sales manager for book publishing papers. After five years, the upwardly mobile family decamped to a small village in Michigan, where a subsidiary of Phillips Morris had acquired a paper mill, with Bill becoming vice-president of marketing.

The distinction of the plant was to produce high quality, coated printing and specialty papers. Thanks to Bill and his team, the company performed singularly well, prospering beyond all expectations, until one morning the phones stopped ringing. The paper industry had hit one of its proverbial bust cycles.

Returning to San Francisco, the time seemed right to start his own paper mill agency, while simultaneously joining a southern California corporation, representing European paper mills, as executive VP and marketing manager. Together the two companies expanded their printing and specialty paper businesses throughout North America.

Reluctant to leave the City and Bill’s post-retirement hobby as a volunteer tour guide, the peripatetic couple, encouraged by their son, moved to Oakmont in 2000. Far from resting on his laurels, Bill soon found himself actively participating in the many activities our community has to offer.

In retrospect he calls it the best move, among the many made. Life was pleasant and filled with interesting people and punctuated by lovely events. Then disaster struck on Jan. 16, 2011, on a cold winter morning. Bill had gone shopping and when he returned, black smoke billowed from his house. Frantically looking for his wife, he found that a stranger had stopped his car and led Ann to safety.

The fire was caused by a space heater in Bill’s office, destroying it completely, including computer ware with thousands of photos stored on them. The kitchen was ruined and so were his classical CD collection, clothes and books. But only a few months later, sitting in the newly refurbished living room, there was not a hint of the tragic day. The house had been completely rebuilt and beautifully restored. Bill, having experienced both good and bad days in his chosen career, feels only gratitude that nothing worse happened.


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