William J. McCloskey, III, 1948-2018
Originally appeared in The Reporter, Lansdale, PA, May 29, 2018
William J. McCloskey, III, 70, of Ambler, passed away May 24, after suffering from vascular dementia. He was known as “Mac” in high school, “Mr. Mac” as a scout master for twelve years, “Biff” to his kids, “Pop-pop” to his grandkids, and “Bill” to most everyone else.
Bill had a playful nature and liked joking around and telling stories. He was the kind of person who could communicate easily with a wide variety of people, asking enough good questions to let everyone be at ease and empowered. He was known for his strong opinions and aphorisms on everything from relating to people (“Good communication is the ability to tell some one to go to hell and have them thank you for the directions.”) to good health (“If you’re cold, change your socks and put on a hat. You know you loose 90% of your body heat out your head and feet.”).
Though his life was often challenging and Bill could be stubborn, he will be remembered as a devoted father and grandfather, a great scout master and youth group leader. Big in his thinking and dreaming, he could only be his own boss.
Born May 21, 1948, in Conshohocken, PA, he was the eldest son of William McCloskey Jr. and Caroline Ruser. Growing up he had a difficult homelife and often took responsibility for his six siblings who sometimes referred to him as “Dad.”
After many years of racing, he won the 1961 soapbox derby. Firefighting was in his blood, and he was a life-time member of the Barren Hill Fire Company, a former chief of Center Square, and also ran with Towamencin and Worcester.
He graduated from La Salle High School in 1966 and the Hill School in 1967. He briefly attended Duke University, received his associate’s degree from Montgomery County Community College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in English in 1975.
Bill married Patricia Cullen in 1971. After college, and with a new baby son (Shane), he worked as a commercial roof estimator and found it was something he did well. He opened Comdustrial Roofing Contractors Inc. in 1978, a year after his daughter, Erin, was born. The business burned down in 1986. Though he later rebuilt, the business never gained momentum and he closed it in 1988.
Bill’s great joy was being a daddy and later a pop-pop. “He was always trying to teach us things,” said Erin. “He didn’t ever just do things for us. He challenged us to use not just our brains but our imaginations.” She remembers that he went to every one of her field hockey and lacrosse games in high school.
“He knew a little about a lot, and I thought him to be an encyclopedia,” said his son, Shane. “If I had a question at any age, I could ask my Dad. And for a long time I always thought them to be one hundred percent factual, pre wiki era. I later learned he was occasionally making up things which were parallel to the truth, thus funny to him, but fabricated as the day was long.”
When Shane was a Boy Scout, his dad became the scoutmaster. Bill liked the role and the activities so much he began hiking and camping on family vacations. Mr. Mac lead Troop 178 of Kulpsville for twelve years, six years after Shane became an Eagle Scout. He was honored by Troop 178 at their anniversary celebration for his years of service.
Though raised Catholic, Bill was an active member of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Gwynedd, PA. He served as a youth group leader, an usher, and a property committee member during his eighteeen-year membership.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Patricia McCloskey, who died in 2017. He is survived by his two children, Shane (Liisa Korpela) McCloskey and Erin (Tony) Steele, and his grandchildren, Lilja McCloskey, Mary Roman, and Caleb and Leah Steele. He is also survived by his six siblings: Tony (the late Karen) McCloskey; Joe (Nancy) McCloskey; Tom (Sue) McCloskey; Carol (Kenny) White; Jim (Maureen) McCloskey; and Pat (Donna) McCloskey.
Relatives and friends will be received on Wednesday May 30, after 5 pm in the Spring Mill Fire Company, 1210 E. Hector St, Conshohocken, PA 19428, and are invited to attend a celebration of his life at 7 pm.