I hadn't heard a word from Bill Kling in the 45 years since we graduated together from West York High School.
Following graduation I went my way, and Bill went his. I could say the same, in fact, for most of the people I graduated with.
So I was a bit surprised to find an email from Bill on my work computer a while back. He was living in New Jersey, but wanted to come back to York for a visit and wanted to get together with some of his former classmates when he was home.
He made a list. Surprisingly, I was on it. I say "surprisingly" because Bill and I, except for the time we spent playing baseball together for a couple of summers and the first two years of our high school careers, were not particularly close.
We were, more or less, two ships that passed in the night. We knew each other. We liked each other. But we didn't spend much time together.
Then the phone rang last week. It was Bill. He was back in town. He wanted to talk. He had a story to tell, and he hoped I would help him tell it.
As it turns out, Bill's a really smart guy. But you would have been hard-pressed 45 years ago to find many in his class who might have thought so. He never gave off those vibes.
His best trait, as I look back on it, was that he was likeable, a really nice guy. He didn't judge people. He got along with just about everyone. He wasn't the class clown, but he always seemed to have a smile on his face.
But he was a coaster -- one of those students who does the least amount of work possible to scrape by. By his own admission, he was unmotivated. He spent his high school years more or less going through the motions.
There were reasons for that, as it turns out. Again, few of his classmates had a clue. I know I didn't.
"My parents died in a car crash when I was 3," Bill said, during a recent interview. "So I was raised by my grandparents. They were my guardians. They certainly loved me, but they didn't have much."
Bill grew up thinking everyone was better than he was. "I didn't have things I thought everyone else had," he said. "We didn't have a car; I couldn't get 'cool clothes.' I never had money and, in general, felt like I was a second-class citizen."
Things went from bad to worse. His grandfather died when he was in the 11th grade. So he had to quit baseball so he could get a part-time job to help his grandmother pay the bills. He rarely had time to socialize.
"I definitely had low self-esteem," Bill says now. "I had a complex. Everyone was better than me. That's how I felt. So I was unmotivated. I was a bad student."
Nevertheless, he graduated from high school and went to work at Tioga Mills.
But this was the Vietnam era, so most of the boys that didn't go to college got drafted into the Army. Bill got drafted. He went to school to study electronics, and became skilled at satellite and microwave communications. And then off he went to Vietnam -- two tours of duty -- working in the American Embassy in Saigon.
After that, as part of his job with the Department of State and, later, his own communications company, Bill literally saw the world, particularly the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
But in between, he also got the bug to pursue his education. The "bad" student at West York suddenly was motivated to study at the University of Maryland. And he had help in the form of now-retired U.S. Congressman William F. Goodling, who happened to be the principal at West York in 1966, when Bill was a student there.
He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1978, and immediately went back to work for the State Department in Taiwan, and during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, happened to be in Iran.
Shortly after that, he went back to Monmouth, N.J., where he worked in defense communications and started his own company specializing in testing and installing communications equipment.
He's retired now. He's moving back to York. And he realizes how lucky he's been in life. He made something of himself, and now he wants to give something back.
And he wants to do it in the form of an annual scholarship for graduating West York High School students. Not necessarily the best and the brightest you'd find at the top of the class. Not the academic superstars.
He wants to help kids like him -- unmotivated students, but with potential. The coasters. The downtrodden. Smart kids who only need a push in the right direction.
He's talked to school district officials and members of the school board.
But it's a long, drawn-out process with tons of bureaucracy. Lots of forms to fill out. He's impatient. He wants to do this, and he wants to do it soon, maybe even give some money to a needy student or two this summer.
So he asked if I'd help him spread the word -- this is it. His email address is: BKLING99@yahoo.com.
West York students only.
If you want a scholarship, send your resume there. If you want to help raise funds, contact Bill there. If you want to help him weed through resumes, contact him there. If you have an idea that might help, write him there.
"I want to promote this through word of mouth," he said. "And ultimately, I want the blessing of the school district. But I want to do it my way -- I want to be involved in the selection process. I have a feel for the kind of students I want to help."
Smart kids who need some help getting their acts together.
Bill Kling types, I guess you might say.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhick email@example.com.