This archived article was written by: Joshua Behn
During my time in Price I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most wonderful people I have ever known. Of all these, one in particular stands out among the rest, William “Billy” Lanier, who passed away in 2005.
Few of CEU’s student body remember Billy, but among the alumni, faculty, and many citizens of Carbon County, a place of esteem is held for him.
As a CEU adjunct instructor in history and sociology, he loved teaching and was marvelously successful at sharing his vast knowledge. His great love for humanity was evident in his classes and he was passionate about injustices in the history of nations including the oppression of the Australian Aboriginees and the victims of Pol Pot in Cambodia. At times he could be a bit scatterbrained (like the time he referred to the U.S. Congress as the houses of Lords and Commons) but his enthusiasm and the perspective he put on the subject matter was a joy to observe.
A professional student with a lifelong love of education, he excelled in his formal education, starting at CEU where he earned an associate’s of applied science with an English emphasis and an associate’s of applied science in early childhood development; continuing on to earn triple degrees in history, psychology and government from William Penn University; and finally receiving his master’s of arts degree in international diplomacy at Bond University in Queensland, Australia. He enjoyed learning, whether in or outside of the classroom.
I first met Billy when I moved to Price in 2004 and, like most who crossed his path, was quickly accepted as a friend. He became my best friend, and yet, Billy had many best friends, whose lives he touched with his complete lack of guile.
He was one of those rare individuals who saw the best in everyone and without trying, would make you feel like you were the most important person in his life. There really was no one quite like him.
His generosity was astonishing, always giving of himself, even if it were inconvenient. If you were down, a mere smile from him would brighten your day. And his laughter … it was of the most unique and infectious type that can only be described as “the Billy chortle.”
His death on July 3, 2005, came as a shock to everyone who knew him, a tragedy that is hard to understand even to this day. There was no logical reason and as we searched for answers, some solace lay in he ancient words of Ecclesiastes:
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
Though we may never know why (at least not in this mortal realm), while there was still so much life left to live, Billy’s season had passed. Yet, while those of us who had been touched by him mourned (Billy touched lives in ways that even he would never fully comprehend), the true sorrow lay in the many more lives who would never have the honor of knowing him.
As a funeral director and embalmer by trade, I have witnessed many funerals over the years but have never known anyone who had so many memorials held in their honor. Throughout that long summer and fall, three separate ones were held. As a community we came together and mourned one of our own
Lanier was a man who so profoundly touched this school that his memory can never by fully extinguished. The time to mourn has passed (though we all dearly miss him still) and has now been replaced by the sharing of happy memories, the time to laugh. We still remember his life which still continues to touch others: through our own lives, changed.
This is my eulogy to him, the eulogy I was never able to give. In closing, the words to the song “For Good” (the song sung at his funeral) are truly fitting:
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood,
Who can say if I’ve
Been changed for the better?
But, because I knew you,
Because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.