Old Friends Long Gone

“Through the force, things you will see-other places-the future, the past, old friends long gone.”

During holy week this year I received an email from a friend back home in California. An old friend of mine had passed away in his home. His name was Bill Zuck. Some of my readers may have been fortunate to know Bill. He certainly got around. Bill was a very unique individual and and helped to acelerate my theological understanding. I’d like to say my bit here to remember him. 

I can only recall bits and pieces of what Bill related to me of his past. He was raised Plymouth Brethern and was originally from Pensylvannia. He acquired a degree in engineering and he never married. Through time, Bill went through a number of theological and philosophically changes eventually landing in Anglo-Catholicism with Thomism as his theological and philosophical grid. Eric Mascall and Garigou-Lagrange loom large here.  He worked until his retirement as a grocery clerk.

When I met Bill he was already in his fifties, though for a number of us, we were never quite sure how old Bill was really. He was our own Melchizidek. I suppose it wasn’t important.  What was important was that Bill had read everything, or practically everything.  Hence Bill’s eventual nick name-Infalli-Bill. When I was attending the then C.U.R.E Academy meetings in the early 1990’s in Anaheim, I met Bill. C.U.R.E (Christians United for Reformation-eventually this morphed into the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals) was the brainchild of the trinity of Rod Rosenbladt, Kim Riddlbebarger, and Mike Horton (probably with Shane Rosenthaul and Rick Ritche deserving honorable mention).  Every week the “Academy” would meet for a lecture, with usually a few hours with Q & A. They’d bring in some Reformed academic, sometimes a Lutheran or they’d have one of their own come in and do a series on all things related to the superiority of the Reformation to the modern corrupted Evangelical establishment.

Bill visited a number of theological discussion groups that existed in the Southern California area. He obviously came to rain on CURE’s parade.  Frankly, Bill either annoyed the hell out of people there or scared the living snot out of them. I was in the latter category. Bill had a grasp of the theology and literature of the Reformation that was every bit as good, if not better than our local advocates of the Reformation. He also had something else that Horton’s crew didn’t seem to have the slightest inkling of. He also knew Rome’s theology via Aquinas quite well. He was patient and fairly quiet, until Q & A came along. To be sure,  Bill was always in line to ask a question or rather to plant a theological bomb.  People became annoyed it seemed to me either because they couldn’t understand what he was asking (he was speaking Thomism after all and they had no translator) or they were peeved that he was making their pet teachers look bad.  Eventually things got so bad that they tried ways to keep Bill from asking questions. It didn’t work. Either he’d get in line any way or a proxy (like me) would pose essentially the same question. Or Bill would just wait until after Q & A was over and then ask Mike or Kim his question afterward. This gave to my eyes the first time I saw a Calvinist literally run away from a Thomist. ( Horton turned white as a sheet one evening when he saw Bill comming to ask a question and just ran away.)

Bill made digestable and accessible writers like Aquinas, Lagrange and Mascall, but also exposed me to others like Newman, Pusey, Symmonds, McSorely, et al. Some of the most influential works in my entire life cam from Bill. (Harry McSorely’s, Luther:Right or Wrong?) It was from there that I began to digest not only works by and about Aquinas, but high church Anglicans, specifically those who wrote against a more Calvinistic outlook-Jeremey Taylor, Laud, Henry Hammond, George Hickes, and Thorndike. After a short while, it became apparent to me  that most contemporary Calvinists had read the Puritans but really nothing at all when it came to those English authors who wrote against the Puritans. I was never a fan of stacking the deck.

Just this last summer, Bill suprised me. I was working the book table at my parish (like, what else am I suited for?) when Bill approached. I was shocked. Bill came out of the crowd. He had driven all the way out from California by himself just to see me. We talked as much as we could and he dropped a few hundred bucks in books. He’d be in town for a while and so we made plans to get together. Since I was working all three days at the festival, he’d hang out at the Concordia seminary bookstore just up the road and harrass the Lutherans. After a few days we got together for coffee. It was apparent that while Bill seemed to be the same old Bill, he wasn’t taking care of himself as he should have. Of course, he knew it. I didn’t need to tell him, though I expressed my concerns anyway. We talked about mainly the differences between an Augustinian/Thomistic view and the Orthodox view. Bill was sensitive to my concerns as we shared coffee and he proded me for bibliography. After a while we shifted to my situation and what I was to do next. Bill expressed something of a regret that he wished he had become a priest, but he was far too old now. Just like those long evenings of summer, we talked long into the night in the parking lot.

Bill died as far as I know by himself in his home. He served as an acolyte at his Anglican parish. After complaining of leg pain on Palm Sunday, no one saw him again. On Wednesday he was supposed to show for an acolyte rehearsal but didn’t appear. I believe his body was discovered on Good Friday. He is buried now in Pensylvania with his family.

I miss my old friend. I hope to seem him again some day.

18 Responses to Old Friends Long Gone

  1. young joe from old oc says:

    Perry:

    I had several chats with Bill over the course of our many visits to St. Mary of the Angels when we lived in Alhambra. He possessed both warmth and wit in good measure (I remember Bill and Fr. Gregory Wilcox having a good laugh together on a few occasions, though I have no idea what brought it on). It was people like him who kept us on the path of traditional Anglo-Catholicism as we moved on to South Orange County (becoming members of St. Matthew’s-Newport Beach for a time) and then down to our current location in the North San Diego County area.

    We never discussed Bill’s involvement with CURE, which I find very interesting. It was our actual knowledge of the lifestyles and attitudes of several of CUREs leading lights and the Reformed power brokers that were their patrons that led us away from the world of conservative evangelicalism. The Reformed camp was our final stop on the Evangelical tour and we were initially very attracted to the clever, well-crafted arguments and self-confidence that were the usual fare in our contacts with friends and acquaintances in the CURE circle. In our contact with Bill, maybe the Spirit of God kept us away from the subject to keep my wife and I from looking back, reliving some painful disillusionment, and re-examining the loss of friends and opportunities (by God’s mercy, we are now in the process of becoming Orthodox in the Antiochian tradition, but that story is for another post; however, I have to mention that my many encounters with Dr. Tighe on the blogosphere have reinforced many of the reasons we could no longer remain in Anglicanism).

    We mourn with you at the loss of your friend – may he always be of blessed memory.

  2. Nathaniel says:

    May his memory be eternal!

  3. Dr. Tighe,

    To my knowledge of Bill over twentyyears he was always a member of St. Mary of the Angels in Los Angeles. I never knew him to rejoin TEC. He strongly opposed the 79 BCP and preferred the Anglican Missal.

  4. William Tighe says:

    I have a further recollection, albeit a vague one, that Mr. Zuck may have occasioned some “shocked” reactions by stating in another conversation at that same event that he had once been a member of a Continuing Anglican body and congregation, but had later (re)joined the Episcopal Church — but it might have been another Episcopalian who was at the conference that said that.

  5. Andrew says:

    Perry,

    I used to go to church with Rick Ritchie, and I’m in constant contact with Dr Rosenbladt, being a student at Concordia University in Irvine. I never knew Bill Zuck at the time, nor had I ever heard of him (for understandable reasons, it sounds like; I didn’t know intelligent opponents to the conservative Reformation existed, and I’m pretty sure the powers that be wanted to keep it that way).

    Small World.

  6. Dr. Tighe,

    I think Bill believed everything in the Catholic Catechism, but he just couldn’t stomach the NO. He had sophisticated justifications for not being in open communion with Rome. Not to speak ill of the dead, I remained unpersuaded.

  7. A worthy tribute for a great man. Thank you, Perry.

  8. ioannis says:

    May the memory of your friend be eternal.

  9. frontierorthodoxy says:

    May God grant mercy and healing to both you and Bill as well as all others who feel his loss.

  10. William Tighe says:

    I think I met him for the first (and only) time at the “Anglican Use” conference in Houston in June of last year. I remember him as being a bit “coy” about whether he was an Anglican or a Catholic.

  11. Megan says:

    I remember Bill from the C.U.R.E. evenings too. I never knew he travelled all the way just to see you, that was certainly a nice thing! He never frightened me, I just saw him as yet another theologian who knew way more than I did on the topic.

  12. Jerry Cornelius says:

    “I miss my old friend. I hope to seem him again some day” – Perry Robinson

    Romans 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

    True Spiritual Fathers are always sent by the HOLY Spirit and they are always challenging what we expected they would be…..

  13. Jnorm888 says:

    Memory Eternal!

  14. Ruthanne says:

    Beautiful post, Perry. I remember talking to InfalliBill a number of years ago about Energetic Procession and the Filioque. He indeed was a force and I too hope to see him again. May his memory be Eternal.

  15. sophocles says:

    Memory eternal. I am sorry for the loss of your friend, Perry.

  16. Ad Orientem says:

    My deepest sympathies on the loss of your friend. May his memory be eternal.

  17. Perry,
    Bill looks familiar. Did he attend St. Luke’s? May he rest in peace.

  18. Robert Mahoney says:

    May his memory be eternal.

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