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William McFarland

Obituary for William McFarland

April 20, 1919 - March 2, 2017
Indianapolis, Indiana | Age 97


William Russell "Bill" McFarland passed away on March 2, 2017. Nearly 98 years old, he was born to Parvin and Leni (Askin) McFarland on April 20, 1919 near Southport, Indiana. He was a common man who lived an uncommonly good life. He was fortunate to have two devoted and loving wives. The first, Margaret (1921-1967) was the mother of his three daughters. The second, Vida, was a enthusiastic companion who shared many of Bill's later life interests. Bill enjoyed wandering Indiana and investigating every nook and cranny. Covered bridges, auctions, and local festivals provided an excuse to explore all the Hoosier state has to offer. Many times, auction items would be refurbished as lovely gifts at Christmas. Bill had a way with wood and spent many happy hours crafting cherry or walnut (his favorite woods, the trees sometimes felled himself) tables, grandfather clocks and other cherished pieces. He had a fondness for Indiana crafted quilts and a skilled eye for selecting the most desirable ones. Many of those quilts have lovingly been shared with family through the years.

Bill also had a keen interest in sports, especially golf and basketball. He was a proud Patron of The Masters Tournament for 26 years after being on a ticket wait list for 19 years. He estimated nearly 100 people have been able to attend the tournament through the years as his guest. Bill also closely followed Butler Basketball, taking great joy in the program's success and had a deep appreciation for Hinkle Fieldhouse. As a junior at Acton High School in 1936, Bill played in the Marion County Tourney at then Butler Fieldhouse and scored the winning basket—or so he claimed! For a number of years, Bill belonged to the Elks Club in Shelbyville and also was a member of the Masonic Lodge, Pleasant #134 in Acton. He also was a long time member of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.

Aside from his first few years, Bill lived only in Franklin Township and took much pride in his farm and lovingly maintained red barn. While Bill's main occupation was as a 37 year employee of Eli Lilly & Company (where he and Vida met), Bill remained a farmer at heart and enjoyed his connection to the land and especially being a member of the McFarland family which has deep roots in Franklin Township. Bill was one of 6 children. He is survived by brothers Melvin and Ben. In addition to his parents, proceeding him in death were brothers Paul, and Gayle, and sister Hildreth.

He is survived by Vida, his wife of 35 years, his three daughters; Ann McFarland, Nancy (Jeff) Gatewood, Sally (Chris) Wirthwein and stepdaughters Stephanie Keys and Diana Rowe. Between them there are 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Bill led a full and fulfilling life. He will be remembered for his love of family, his enjoyment of social gatherings and being the center of attention, as well as a quick wit that continued to amuse friends and family. In his family's minds, he will forever be linked with persimmon pudding, pimento cheese sandwiches (a favorite from the Masters), 4th of July cookouts with croquet matches, the iconic red barn, his "bark" and his gentle affection, his workshop, John Deere tractors, his garden and a handsome smile and thick silver hair. Though medium in stature, Bill's personality loomed large and the void he leaves cannot be filled. But the memories will endure, as will the stories and the laughter and the love. A full and fulfilling life, indeed!

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Berea College, if so desired. One of Bill's regrets was that although he had a bright mind, his family could not afford to send him to college. Bill was a longtime donor to Berea as he felt their mission to provide a tuition free education would have helped a young man such as himself. He served on the Berea College President's Council and spent many enjoyable hours visiting campus. He and Vida wed at Berea as well. Donations can be made online at (in the comments field please list "Bill McFarland") or mailed to:

Berea College
CPO 2216 Berea, KY. 40404

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