William S. Silsby, Jr. ’47 died on September 27, 2023, in Bangor, Maine.
(The following was provided by Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home – Ellsworth in October 3, 2023:)
Aurora – William S. Silsby, Jr., 97, died peacefully in his sleep at Ross Manor in Bangor on September 27, 2023. He was born August 28, 1926, in Brewer to Myrle Coombs Silsby and William S. Silsby, Sr.
He grew up in Aurora, but his family moved to Ellsworth where he attended Ellsworth High School. He was a three-sport letterman, graduating in 1943 at the age of 16. In the fall of 1943, he began attending Bowdoin College. But after his freshman year, his education was interrupted by World War II, as he joined the Navy and fought in the Pacific Theater. In the Navy, he was part of a Higgins boat crew that would drop Marines and supplies directly on the shore for amphibious assaults. He also served on one of the first ships to occupy Nagasaki after the second nuclear bomb (nicknamed “Fatman”) was dropped on that city. He described the devastation there, “Like hell, all you could smell was death!” Upon his return from the war, he continued his studies at Bowdoin. Although he played basketball, he really excelled at baseball. As a sharp fielding third baseman with an authoritative bat, he thrived as a Bowdoin ball player, still holding several Polar Bear records. After graduating from Bowdoin in 1950, his baseball prowess was noticed by the MLB. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Brooklynn Dodgers all expressed interest in Bill joining their farm systems. Since ball players did not make the kind of money they do today back then, he chose to pursue law, following in the footsteps of his father, William, Sr. and his brother, Herbert. He attended BU Law School, as his brother, Herb, had done a couple years before, from 1951 to 1953. He never graduated, though, because he passed the bar exam in 1953 and started practicing at the law firm of Silsby & Silsby that same year. During that same year, he became president of the Union River Telephone Company holding that position until earlier this year. As president of Union River Telephone, he started Rivah.net which provides internet services to the same area as the phone company and in Ellsworth. In his fifty-three years of practicing law, his talent in the court room shined through, and he became a highly sought after trial attorney. Also specializing in real estate law, he cofounded and ran the Eastern Maine Title Company in 1985 with his longtime friend Diane Burke. His generosity with family, friends, those less fortunate, and especially those in law enforcement, inspired him to do a lot of pro bono legal work for those that needed him.
In 1969, he married the woman of his dreams, Norene Roderick, of Waterville. They were married for forty years before her death in 2018. She was always by his side and ran several business ventures along with him, including Twin City & Waterville Bowling Lanes.
In 1983, he was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. Bangor Daily News sportswriter Owen Osborne dubbed him “Mr. Baseball” in the 1950s, but his teammates new him as “Mr. Clutch.” When the team needed a big play to win the game, he delivered. His baseball career began in 1936 at the age of eleven, playing third base for the Aurora Cubs town team and he quickly became a hot baseball property after that. Two years later, as he was starting high school, he played for the Ellsworth Red Wings, a team which played in what they called the Maine Semi-Pro Leagues back then. Over the years, he played for the Blue Hill Badgers, Pittsfield AC in the old Tri-County League alongside fellow Hall of Famer, pitcher Wilson Francis, a two-year stint with Harry Dalton’s fast Bangor Club, a second run with the Red Wings, sharing player/manager duties alongside his good friend, Wilson Francis from ’51-’54, and finally back with the Badgers from ’55-’59, where he led the league in hitting with a .462 batting average in 1956. In 1961, nearly a quarter century after playing baseball at a high level, he switched his sports focus to candlepin bowling. As a participant, he quickly became a well-respected competitor, playing in tournaments all over the state. But, probably more importantly, he became an ambassador for the sport, as he did with baseball, promoting the game throughout the state. On the business side, he built Hillside Lanes in Ellsworth, Bangor-Brewer Lanes in Brewer, and Waterville Bowling Lanes, and he reopened Twin City Lanes in Bangor. After designing a new bowling pin, he started the Scor-Mor Candlepin Manufacturing Company with Frank Coombs. On the administrative side, he was president of the Maine State Candlepin Bowling Association and was a member of the World Candlepin Bowling Counsel, in which he wrote the rules of the game which are still used today. On the promotional side, he produced several successful candlepin bowling TV shows which showcased top bowlers from New England and the Canadian Maritimes. He was a co-host, with his good friend Dick Stacey doing the play-by-play and he (Bill) as the color-man. He was also an avid golfer which he excelled at playing tournaments & Calcutta’s across the state. He was a longtime member of Tide Water in Trenton and Kebo Valley in Bar Harbor.
He is survived by his sons Jonathan of Gorham and Richard (Rick) and his wife, Corinne, of Windham, his sister, Beverly McLean of Orono, his sister-in-law, Ruth Blaisdell Silsby of Ellsworth, his grandchildren, Adam of Lee, MA, Derek and his wife, Nish, of Auburn, MA, Kellie of New York City, Olivia, Nevada, and Gage of Monrovia, IN, his son-in-law, David Inman, also of Monrovia, IN, and his great-grandchildren Ian and Caroline of Auburn, MA. He is predeceased by his loving wife, Norene, brother, Herbert, son Billy III, daughter, Bonnie, and his nephew, Bruce Roderick.