In Memory of Bill Mann
A Loving Tribute
by Debbie Miller
Today I pay tribute to an extraordinary man and friend. From day one I have been in awe of Bill Mann. He grew from humble beginning: from a young Merchant Marine on Iwo Jima, to miner and quarryman of rocks, businessman and author. When Bill got an idea in his head, he began with each small step and made his idea a reality. I often wonder how different things would have been had he not written his guidebooks and taught classes at Zzyzx.
Upon reading his first guidebook I was so delighted with his work that I wrote Bill a letter. This turned out to be his first “fan mail”, and we became buddies. What followed was a warm friendship and mutual admiration.
Bill was quite a storyteller. My favorite quote from him is something he would say while leading a trip. He would spin a yarn that left everyone wide eyed with wonder, like small children at story time. Then someone would say, “Wow, is that really true?” and Bill would come back “ Well, I don’t know…but it makes a great story doesn’t it?!” And everyone would laugh. We didn’t care if the story was not true, we just liked the “telling”. To be present experiencing the desert with him was a fun and joyful day.
At the time that I met him, I was a member of the Sierra Club. Bill opened my eyes to the other side of the coin and made me think more critically about conservation verses preservation. He was my first teacher in this respect. He had a bumper sticker on his truck that said “ If it isn’t grown, it has to be mined”. Of course, this was Bill’s profession and I believe he was a “responsible miner”. His family business can be seen on the 15 freeway – the Brubaker Mann facility dealing in colored rock.
Author Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Do no go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. Bill did succeed in leaving a trail, and leading thousands of respectful followers to his desert treasures. He bequeathed a tremendous legacy to those who don’t know him yet with his wonderful guidebooks. He has taught us to appreciate and respect every detail of the desert we encounter,: the beautiful, the historical, the odd and the mysterious. Bill not only made a difference, he was the difference.
His loving imprint upon me has changed the way I enjoy the desert lands and my understanding of mining. His remarkable marriage to Dottie was an inspiration to me, and I sincerely pray that my marriage will be as full and wonderful as theirs.
I had visited Bill in person and by phone often in the many weeks he was at Cedars-Sinai, a rough sentence to bear for an outdoorsman. He would always throw his arms open to me and say, “You are good medicine”. The last time we visited he hugged me so hard my neck was sore for three days. It was the best sore neck I will ever have.
Happy Trails, Bill. I know that you will be watching over me whenever I roam to those interesting and mysterious places.
Thank you, Bill
By Dave and Debbie Given
I first met Bill Mann about 10 or 11 years ago. He came to Mojave to give some expert advice on a project I had become involved in. Over the next several years, we were with him on a few “exploratory” 4 x 4 trips, some as pre runs, others just because he wanted to see what was on the other side. Almost always he had his beautiful wife Dottie by his side. Bill and Dottie taught many classes at Zzyzx, of which we were there for most of them. Bill had a passion for the desert that is unmatched. I never saw Bill without a smile on his face.
In August of 2005, Bill was diagnosed with leukemia. He was in and out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for the next year. Whenever we went to see him, he had a positive outlook. Instead of giving up, he vowed to fight “this thing to the bitter end”; and fight he did. Bill had so many cards, posters and well wishes taped to the wall in his room, they actually covered more than one wall.
What a great inspiration to us all. My friend Bob Rodemeyer says Bill is up in heaven negotiating for a new book. Either that, or lining up for a 4 x 4 trip to see “what’s on the other side” probably both.
Thank you Bill for everything. You are sorely missed. We will see you a little later on a “trip”.
Editors note – It was Dave who brought Bill home from his final hospital stay.