Remembering Bill Donckers

Sandy Donckers-Avelino submitted this article in remembrance of her brother, Bill, who lost his eight-year battle with lymphoma cancer earlier this month.

Billy was born in Renton, WA. on January 8, 1951.  If you were born in Renton in the 50’s and were gifted with athletic abilities and a competitive nature, then the variety of sports we played were endless.  Bill was part of the neighborhood gang; Ronnie and Susan Clark, Mike, Lonnie and Shawnee Sloan, Frank Mieleszkiewicz, Frank Arnone, Myra Kirkman, Dutchy and Dinky Holt, Bob and Barbara Banasky, Jerry Burkhalter, John Reed and Al and Patti Dieckman.

Back in the day as kids, we played all day long until dark, getting our energy from sunflower seeds, red licorice and bubble gum.  Most of our activities involved some kind of sport.  We always found a vacant lot that we cleaned up and used for all of our sports, including a boxing ring, a pole vaulting pit made out of bamboo sticks and countless tree camps and forts.  It was the best neighborhood in town.

Bill loved basketball and football.  He started playing football in the Pee Wee and Little Leagues as a linebacker.  At Dimmit Jr. High, he was moved to quarterback in the ninth grade.  He attended Renton High School in 1967-69 and remained at the quarterback position.  Renton had a powerhouse team and won the league championships in 1967 and 1968.  Undefeated in 1968, Bill was selected to the All Conference Team.

In 1970, he accepted a full ride scholarship to Columbia Basin Jr. College.  CBC won State in 1970 and Bill broke every school passing record, made All State Jr. College as a sophomore and was team captain both years.  At CBC, Bill met his teammate from Hawaii, Clarence Logan, a lasting friendship for over 40 years.

He finished his collegiate years at San Diego State where he made All Pacific Coast Conference and Captain in his senior year.  Another great friendship was made here with teammate Bill Ferguson.  In the last game for San Diego State, Bill sustained an eye injury which hospitalized him for weeks.  During the hospitalization, he’d been offered a free agent tryout by 5 professional teams but was unable to make any of the tryouts.

After his recovery, he was drafted by the Hawaiian team in the World Football League.  He was a free agent for New England Patriots in 1973, Oakland Raiders in 1974 and St. Louis Cardinals in 1976.  In 1975, he played for the Pierce County Bengals, a semi-pro team in Washington State.  The coach, Roy Bogrant, stated he was a great field general and leader and had a cannon for an arm.  In 1976, he made the St. Louis Cardinals team and played for 2 years, coached by his former San Diego State coach, Don Coryell.  In 2011, Bill was inducted into the Renton High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

He said “I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time and just couldn’t get a break on the professional level”.  For example, in his junior year at San Diego State, he backed up Brian Sipe who went on to play for the Cleveland Browns and made MVP in 1980; then a tryout with New England Patriots who had just drafted Jim Plunkett, winner of the Heisman trophy that year; another tryout with the Oakland Raiders and was one of the last two guys to get waived the year they won the Super Bowl.  If he had made the team, he would have backed up Kenny Stabler who was MVP.

After retiring from football, Bill continued to make cabinets and did general contractor work.  He was hired for numerous projects from family members and friends.  We all knew that if Bill built it, it was never going to fall down.

Then he discovered golf in the mid-80’s.  Over the course of the next 30 years, he played nearly every golf course in the state of Washington.  Eastern Washington was a favorite for Billy, Joe Primm, Bruce Wicks and Mike Sparrow where they would play 36 or 54 holes a day on their 3 day golf excursions.  Billy and I, my husband Alan and brother Louie played weekly at various courses in Western Washington.  There was always a side bet for match play, fewest putts and our famous bingo, bango, bongo game.  Billy coined numerous one-liners during our outings…most of them would be censored.  We shared the best times with Billy on the course; the laughter, the good and bad shots and the fierce competition to win.       

Billy was loved by so many people and he touched us all with his faith in the Lord, humor, infamous one-liners and facial expressions.  He had the strength and determination to overcome so many things in spite of a hearing and speech impediment since childhood. He never got the break he deserved, including not being able to beat his 8 year battle with lymphoma cancer.  Billy passed away on December 3rd at his Seattle (Bryn Mawr) home.  Billy was one of a kind and has left us with so many good memories that will never be forgotten.

Bill’s immediate family survivors include his Wife, Barbara Ochoa; Sons Bob Donckers and John Anderson; Daughters Jaime Shearer and Kristi Waite; Father Louie Donckers; Brothers Louie Donckers, Jr. and Joey Bob Primm; Sisters Debra Furrow and Sandy Donckers-Avelino; Grandchildren Coleman, Preston, Chandler, Brooklyn, Shale, Mackenzie, Roman and Naomi.

Memorial and Celebration of Life for Bill Donckers:

  • Memorial: Friday, December 28th, 2012, 2 p.m. at Hope Fellowship Church, 21115 S.E. 272nd Street, Maple Valley, WA 98038 
  • Celebration of Life: Friday, January 4th, 2013 from 4-8 p.m. at the Renton Community Center1715 Southeast Maple Valley Highway, Renton, WA 98057


Dave Nelson December 18, 2012 at 12:12 AM
A true Renton athlete has died, Mr. Donckers loved football so much. I first met Mr. Donckers while covering a Renton High Homecoming football game in the late 90s. The stories he told were so fresh like they just happened the other day. The stories of how Renton Stadium would fill for each football game to watch the state's best football team play. He just like Renton Police Officer Mark Day were legends on the field. We shall never forget the ones who established the foot steps we follow everyday. These two gentleman deserve to be recognize including adding their names to the Wall of Fame at Renton Stadium to start.
Terri Sloan December 18, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I agree. They were both outstanding athletes as well as wonderful people. They should be recognized for their achievements. Terri Sloan
Sean Mc (Miller) December 19, 2012 at 01:49 PM
To me, he was Uncle-Bill; the gentle giant with the mustache & the funny way of talking (a kids pov). Best memory of Uncle-B was one summer afternoon, I was tormenting my younger cousin Bob D. a little too much during our 1-on-1 game of full contact football -- Uncle-B taught me 2 very important life-lessons that day: 1) when thrown at the proper velocity, a football CAN catch the receiver (whether he wants it to, or not)! -&- 2) protect those who are smaller & weaker (especially FAMILY) than you, not because you're told to, but because it's the right thing to do......Family 1st, integrity always! Thanks Sandy, for the history snap-shot; your article will hang right next to my signed copy of Bill's St. Louis Cardinals team photo, in my Man-cave! RIP Uncle-Bill & God Bless the Donckers family. Sean Mc (Miller)
Bill Ferguson December 24, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Billy Boy and I played football and lived together for two years at San Diego State. I have many good memoirs of Bill and I sharing are lives together. My mom and Dad loved having Bill come home with me every sunday for dinner. Bill had a heart for God, family and football which made fast friends. Bill Ferguson
Cavin January 06, 2013 at 08:53 PM
To me he was 3rd cousin for whom I never met heard much about him he will be missed I wish I would have met this loving man, father, brother, cousin, above all family member. 


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