July 29, 1926-Dec. 21, 2011: MISSOULA - William "Bill" Worf died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011.
Born to Charlie and Florence in Reed Point, Bill was raised on a small ranch in Rosebud County during the Great Depression and learned the lessons of hard work and perseverance that were hallmarks of his life. He graduated early from Forsythe High School so he could enlist in the U.S. Marines. He served three years during World War II, which included combat at the invasion of Iwo Jima. He returned home and married Eva Jean Batey of Rosebud on Dec. 22, 1946. He earned a bachelor of science degree in forestry from the University of Montana in 1950.
Bill led an extremely active life, pursuing and working to strengthen the values about which he was so passionate, including family, wilderness, conservation, country and community. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service for nearly 32 years in four national forests, two regional offices and the national headquarters. In 1961 Bill was appointed supervisor of the Bridger National Forest, where he developed and installed a formal wilderness management plan, the first such program ever used in the U.S. Forest Service.
At the same time he actively campaigned for passage of the federal Wilderness Act. When it passed in 1964 he and five others were charged with the responsibility of developing regulations and policy guidelines for implementing the act within the national forest system. He was then permanently assigned to Washington, D.C., headquarters to lead the wilderness program, where he developed and installed a Forest Service wilderness philosophy and prepared proposals to Congress for additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Upon his retirement from the U.S. Forest Service in 1981 and with the active support of his wife Eva Jean, he vowed to dedicate his remaining years to working tirelessly for sound management of wilderness. In 1989 he and two colleagues founded Wilderness Watch, the only national citizens' organization dedicated solely to promoting sound stewardship of established wildernesses and wild rivers, an organization that fights relentlessly to keep the full intent of the Wilderness Act intact. "I shall not perish from this earth without doing everything within my realm to save its most precious non-human resource."
Bill brought about change. He inspired many people in many ways. It is impossible to mention them all here.
Bill was preceded in death by his dear wife, Eva Jean; brother Laurel; sister Doreen Mathern; sons Gary and Keith; daughter-in-law Susan (Bangart) Worf and son-in-law Clay Owen.
He is survived by his remaining children, Gloria Owen of El Jebel, Colo., Ron of Logan, Utah, Brent of Anaconda and Mark (Sandy); daughters-in-law, Claudine Jones of Oakland, Calif., and Leslie (Towne) Worf; sister Dorothy Mathern; 13 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren and his dedicated, beloved caregiver, Cathy Watson.
Bill, it is so hard to bear the loss of you and everything you meant to us. Please know that all the hard work you've done will be built upon and never forgotten. You are and always will be our father and a father of wilderness preservation. You have changed the world and made it better. Thank you.
Services will be held in Missoula mid-February to allow the presence of Bill's many friends and family. Watch the WildernessWatch.org website for announcement. In lieu of flowers, deductible contributions may be made to Wilderness Watch Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 9175, Missoula, MT 59807, or the Worf Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Montana Foundation, P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807.