Guest column: The ultimate tourist

  • Thursday, January 17, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following eulogy was written by Catherine Dominguez. Her brother, William Carlos “Bill” Dominguez was killed in a bicycle/pickup truck accident near Georgetown on Jan. 7. The incident is still being investigated by the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Catherine Dominguez lives in Severna Park, Maryland. Her brother Bill and their parents moved from Detroit, Michigan to Leesburg, Florida in 2012.
Bill Dominguez had ridden his bicycle more than 260,000 miles over the years, making trips to and from Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida and other places, visiting practically every state in the country on a bicycle.

My brother Bill was dealt a harsh deal in the game of life. He was diagnosed with autism when just a young child. Extremely intelligent with an incredible sense of memory, Bill knew the states and capitals at an early age. I remember him being able to recite the presidents in order. Bill loved doing puzzles. The kitchen floor and later the basement floor used to have the completed puzzles on them. He loved astronomy and could recite any fact about anything related to the solar system. He helped me in 9th grade write a speech on astronomy. Who needed the Internet back then when I had a brother who could memorize facts and figures? And recall them when asked.

He loved backgammon. When he was a child, he read books about strategies about backgammon and quickly became an expert. I stopped playing with him when I realized I couldn’t beat him anymore.

Despite his autism, he went on to get a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at the University of Detroit. He was only 2 classes shy of his master’s degree.

Bill became aware during his teenage years that he didn’t fit in. It frustrated him frequently. There was no manual or book that he could read, that would explain the complexities of human emotion and body language. He tried so hard to bridge that gap and just wasn’t able to. I remember wishing on birthday candles and first stars of the night, that he would be cured of his autism.

I regret my kids will not get to know him in to their adulthood. I remember Bill as being such a sweet little brother. The only time I really remember him as being a pest was when I was about 11 and he figured out the combination to my suitcase. Taunting me, he kept unlocking and locking my suitcase. We were getting ready to leave for Maryland to visit my aunt and uncle for Thanksgiving. Angrily, I hid my suitcase behind the couch so he would leave it alone. Naturally, I forgot to tell my parents. When we reached the hotel that night, my suitcase was not found. I got in trouble and a new set of clothes.

He survived kidney cancer. He developed seizures as a young adult. Despite all of this, he biked.

Bill saw the country in ways no one else did. He saw museums and zoos in the cities that he would bike through. My parents often remarked that a guardian angel sat on the handlebars of his bike. His angel protected him through other bike accidents.

Bill would plan in meticulous detail each bike trip. He biked to Alaska, through Canada. He biked to Florida, to Maryland. Bill was always eager to share his plans for future bike trips. Many trips he planned were truly arduous — such as biking round trip to Alaska from Michigan — and to the average person unthinkable, but not to Bill. And those who knew Bill knew he would follow through on those plans. It was indeed rare that he could not complete a journey. Bill traveled more miles and to more states on a bike than most people travel by car, bus or plane.

Bill loved to travel. He knew the dangers of biking and had been hit by a car before. There are many things that we can learn from Bill and the way he approached life.

For Bill, every day was an adventure and he faced that adventure with passion and commitment to reaching his goals. Bill set lofty goals and he knew that the only way to achieve a goal such as biking across the country was to take it one day at a time. Each day presented a new set of challenges, including weather, hills, distance, or navigational issues. Some challenges were a bit more daunting than others. In particular, Bill did not like biking in the rain or wind, yet that did not stop him. If anything it just made him more focused on reaching his goal for the day.

Bill was blessed to encounter numerous “trail angels” on his journeys. People who befriended him, offered advice and assisted him in times of need. These people were equally fortunate to have welcomed Bill into their lives. Bill has gone on to other journeys but his legacy will live on in the many lives he touched during his adventurous life.

To Bill, it wasn’t the destination so much as the journey along the way. His luck came to end when he was violently hit by a pick-up truck — an accident that could have been avoided if only the driver had paid more attention to the journey instead of his destination.

Bill’s ashes will be scattered on the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina. He had gotten acquainted with the area. BiIl loved Myrtle Beach because of the people that lived there and its scenic view.

My parents figured out that if you added up all the miles he had biked, it was equivalent to the distance from here to the moon. So when you look up at the sky tonight, think of Bill as he bikes to his final destination to Heaven.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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