Death of William A. Edmonds

Global Ministries announces with sadness the death of former missionary William A. Edmonds.

Bill Edmonds died in Bremerton, Washington on July 20, 2009, with his immediate family at his bedside.  He was born in Seattle, Washington on March 13, 1926, to Robert Harold Gray Edmonds and Florence (Burkheimer) Edmonds, and attended schools in Seattle, graduating from Lincoln High in 1943.  He entered Yale University that year and completed his freshman year before enlisting in the US Army in 1944 where he served as a technical sergeant in the US military occupation of Korea.  Bill graduated with a BA in sociology from Yale in 1949 and was a member of the Yale Glee Club as it performed in Europe that summer on its first post-WWII overseas tour.  

Having studied Chinese at Yale, Bill was expecting to be a teacher at Yale-in-China, but the Communist takeover prevented that.  Instead, he was appointed to a three-year term (1949-1952) in Turkey under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM, now part of Wider Church Ministries) to teach at the American Middle School (Amerikan Orta Okulu) for Turkish boys in Talas-Kayseri.  His account of misadventures journeying to Talas is part of the family lore, and is one of many comedies reflecting a deep appreciation and respect for all others that brought a twinkle to many eyes.

Experiences with his students and his sociological training sparked Bill's desire to learn more about Turkey's peoples, cultures, and history.  He pursued this interest through studies at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada from 1952 to 1954 and was one of the first three to graduate from McGill in 1954 with an M.S. in Islamic Studies.

In 1953 Bill married Anna Goodykoontz who, like him, had been a teacher the same years with the ABCFM in Turkey at the Üsküdar American Academy for Girls (Üsküdar Amerikan Kiz Lisesi).

Intending to learn more about the rural practices and beliefs of Islam in Turkey, Bill and Anna accepted a five-year (1954-1959) ABCFM appointment as outreach specialists, located first in Üsküdar and then in Talas.  He studied at Yale Divinity School in the school year of 1959-60, at the end of which he and Anna were commissioned career missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, with assignment to the Near East Mission (NEM).  Their work from then on was with the NEM publishing department, later known as Redhouse Press.  Soon thereafter he became its director, the position he held until his retirement in 1991.

Along with supervising the editorial work of the several Redhouse English-Turkish, Turkish-English dictionaries and many children's books, Bill also initiated a pioneering series of nature/ecology guides in the early 1970s.  His community work included helping found both the Society for the Protection of Wildlife (Doğal Hayati Koruma Derneği) and the World Wildlife Fund, Turkey, and chairing the Refugee Aid Committee with the World Council of Churches and the United Nations Refugee Agency in Istanbul.

Having played the flute from childhood, Bill joined the Istanbul Recorder Consort and the Istanbul Baroque Music Ensemble, both of which performed regularly.  In 1964 he took over the direction of the church choir, which rapidly grew to become the Dutch Chapel Cantata Choir and Orchestra with its regular bi-yearly concerts.  He also performed with the Istanbul Chamber Opera Society, singing lead parts in Arne's The Cooper, Hindemith's There and Back and Mozart's Bastien and Bastienne.  He played the insane Georgescue in Dracula, a performance long remembered in Istanbul; and later on in Bainbridge, the part of the villain Edward Leach in Calamity on Four Corners with BPAA.

The family home on Fenerli Türbe Sokak at the top of Rümeli Hisar was a caravanserai for countless international journeyers, on at least one occasion sleeping no fewer than 21 under the same roof, and on other dates, serving as the yearly gathering point for the Asia to Europe swim that capped the intensive language program provided for newly-arriving mission teachers.

In retirement on Bainbridge Island, Bill was a member of Eagle Harbor Congregational Church.  He also returned to his interest in sociology and worked as a volunteer at Helpline House and with Joint Action in Community Service in Seattle.  Continuing his experience in publishing, he was the publisher for ten years of the Battle Point Astronomical Association Newsletter.

Bill leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Anna; his four children, Colin (Bike Kurdoğlu Edmonds) and son Merrill; Robert (Kris Cope Edmonds) and daughters Maari Edmonds and Leslie Jones; Susan Eyre and daughter Sydney; and James (Vicky Minto) and daughter Süreyya; and sister Martha (Edmonds) Fairbank.

A memorial service of music will take place on Sunday, August 9, at 3:30 pm at the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church.  Following the service there will be a time for fellowship and remembrances in the Fellowship Hall of the church.  In place of flowers, memorial contributions in his name may be made to:

  • Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, 105 Winslow Way W, Eagle Harbor, WA 98110-2511;
  • One Call for All (formerly known as The Bainbridge Foundation), PO Box 10487, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, phone 206-842-0659;
  • The Friends of the American Board Schools in Turkey, Inc., 14 Beacon Street, Rm 708, Boston, MA 02108.

Messages of condolence can be sent to Mrs. Anna G. Edmonds, 14928 Sunrise Dr NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-1113.