Charles William “Bill” Stonebarger, age 92, passed away peacefully on March 11, 2019, at Alden Estates in Jefferson, Wis. Bill was born on Sept. 10, 1926, to Charles and Ruth Stonebarger in Dayton, Ohio, where he grew up during the Great Depression. Bill was an exceptional student (his former priest told his sister that Bill was the smartest person he ever met), but he deliberately flunked out of officer training college so that he could immediately participate in World War II in the U.S. Navy.
After the war, Bill enrolled in Antioch College, where he married his first wife, Virginia Hanford. The couple spent time on the East Coast, including New York City, the birthplace of their two sons, before settling down in Wisconsin, where he began teaching science at University Lake School. He eventually left teaching, divorced, and his fiercely independent spirit propelled him to find his true calling in life: founding and operating the educational media company, Hawkhill Associates, which produced and marketed video programs to generations of students across the U.S. and the world.
Hawkhill was originally based amid the rolling hills of Black Earth, Wis., but then was relocated to a Queen Anne Victorian house on East Gilman Street in Madison, where Bill and his new wife and soulmate, Jane Denny, worked and lived for more than 40 years. Bill filmed many of his videos on location, which gave him and Jane a chance to travel extensively throughout the world. In his travels, Bill met and interviewed a number of prominent scientists and other personalities, including R. Buckminster Fuller and former president, Jimmy Carter.
Hawkhill had up to 10 employees at one time, including his son, Michael, who assisted in the filming, video production and music. Bill and Jane also made their house on Gilman Street into a social focal point for family and friends, and operated a bed and breakfast there for many years. This brought in even more people from all parts of the world, and Bill and Jane would often invite their guests downstairs for supper and to engage in erudite discussions and debates on all the issues of the day. Throughout his life, Bill was always less concerned with details than with the big picture, and believed in the exceptional nature of the United States. As long as the tenets of democracy and the free market system were followed, Bill was certain that the world would only continue to grow and prosper.
In his later years, he wrote three books, including the memoir, East Gilman Street. Earlier in his life, he wrote the play, A. Lincoln, and a book of poetry, A Little While Aware, which the Milwaukee Journal compared favorably to works by one of the leading Victorian poets, Gerald Manley Hopkins. Bill was an avid golfer and tennis player, fan of all Wisconsin sports teams, and enjoyed going to the horse races with his son, Andrew.
Bill is predeceased by his wife, Jane, who passed away last fall; and his sister, Pat. He is survived by his sister, Judy Cerar; Bill’s ex-wife, Virginia; their two sons, Michael and Andrew; and the stepchildren from his marriage with Jane Denny, Kate, Ravi, James and Samuel.
He will never be forgotten.