Zoom Vacations recently lost a very important member of our family….someone without whom there would be no Zoom Vacations, Bill Gudenau. (this was not Covid related). When Bill lived in Chicago, he was an avid supporter of the LGBTQ community, so some of you may know him from that. In fact, I think Joel Cabrera first met him at a fund-raiser, and later introduced him to me. Like all of us who met Bill, I loved him instantly. How could you not? Years later, the three of us started Zoom Vacations, and Bill has been a silent partner and trusted advisor to us for the past several years. He has also been more like a part of my family. Bill was a tremendous blessing in my life and I owe so much to him. He was profoundly responsible for the man I am today.
I don’t write this post to receive condolences or sympathy, but to let my friends, family, and travelers know, who may have been fortunate enough to have met Bill. Two days before he passed, Matt and I got to tell Bill how much we love him and how much he has meant to us, and I am so thankful for this. We also brought Joel in via telephone, who is currently leading our Zoom Vacations tour to Egypt. In typical Bill fashion, he responded to our tears with a peaceful reassurance that he was ready to go, and that it was the right time for him. To say that Bill was strong would be the understatement of the century. I have a hunch that Joel’s close friendship with Bill is where Joel developed so much of his strength as well.
I think that everyone who met Bill got to experience something different but equally wonderful and impactful, and I just want to share some of my favorite things, as tribute to him.
Firstly, Bill was hilarious, and traveling with him was an absolute riot. He was so disarming and could get away with saying virtually anything, and the recipient would just laugh… and stick around for more.
Bill was generous to a fault. I think this is the biggest lesson I learned from Bill. In fact “what would Bill do” is a thought that will continue to guide me for the rest of my life.
Bill was so accepting. I never heard Bill be the least bit judgmental, and when someone around him was, he had this uncanny way of showing them a brighter path, while making them feel safe and understood at the same time. Honestly it was weird and wonderful, and I wish I could embody even half of his grace.
Bill was a visionary. I will never forget the inception of Zoom Vacations. Bill knew what it could be. Also, he knew the potential that Joel had, and encouraged him to follow his dream steadfastly. Joel was like a son to him, and he was so immensely proud of Joel, you could see it in his eyes when he spoke to him. They had such respect and admiration for each other, and perhaps most importantly, they encouraged each other to dream. I wish everyone had a friendship like this.
Bill was a class act. He had no time for pettiness. But if you were, he had such compassion for people, knowing full well that we do not know their struggle.
Bill was stylish as Hell. If you ever saw his home in Chicago, you know what I’m talking about. Bill was one of the people who taught me how to live beautifully.
Bill never asked for anything. He clearly, absolutely, undoubtedly, unquestionably, received more pleasure from giving than receiving. I don’t think I know anyone who embodies this more than Bill. And he never asked for anything in return. If it was in his means to do something for someone, he would. Fortunately he had people like Joel, Matt, and family like his wonderful nephews, who looked out for him as well.
Bill helped those around him feel at peace. Some people just have a calming presence. Bill was one of those people.
Bill was a hugely successful businessman. He created several successful companies from nothing. I don’t actually know how he learned everything he did, but the man was wildly impressive.
Lastly, Bill understood that the beauty of life is all about relationships. He remembered people even if he only knew them briefly, or had not seen them in years. I was always amazed at the stories he could remember… the people who inspired him, and the positive impact he could glean from even the shortest interaction. I am sure there is a more eloquent way to say this, but I can’t think of a better way than simply, “Bill was special”.
If you do know Bill, even just a little, I would love to hear a fun story or anecdote you may have about him, either via private message or publicly on this thread. Here is to celebrating this beautiful human being.