Thanksgiving
Remembering Bill

By Jorge Figueiredo - October 12th, 2014

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This is probably the first time we have ever done something like this on Toronto Thumbs. I don’t normally put too much of myself on here, but Bill was a special guy; and even though he doesn’t have much to do with videogames, or modern technology, he could easily have been a character in many of the games that we play and I felt like I needed to tell as many people as I could how awesome he was.

I met William Edward Fedun a long time ago at a Renaissance festival outside of Milton, Ontario. My youngest brother introduced me to him as a maker of medieval armour and a dealer of medieval (and some modern) weapons. I remember meeting him for the first time at the booth for the South Tower Armouring Guild. I walked up and we shook hands, and though I was taller than he was, there was something about him in that handshake that would lead one to believe that they were shaking hands with a stout tree, or a mountain of some sort. Yet, beside this feeling of spiritual hugeness about him, he had geniune smile and sparkling eyes that spoke of true friendliness and mischief.

We spent a good amount of time chatting that day, figuring each other out and having a good time doing it. While I don’t remember the exact conversation, I recall that the cadence was easy, and that there were many laughs. We talked about our own experiences in the different fighting arts that we each knew (Bill was a teacher of chivalrous swordhandling at Algonquin College and Plant Recreation Centre), and we talked about our favourite weapons. We became fast friends, and kept in touch occasionally via e-mail. While we didn’t chat often, it felt like no time passed in between conversations. I would never presume my position in Bill’s hierarchy of friends – but he was the sort of person that would never really admit to having one, and would always make you feel like you were at the top of his list of priorities when he was talking to you.

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The standard of the South Tower Armouring Guild.

I visited Bill and his wife Brenda a few times while the Renaissance Festival was still active. Whenever I visited I felt welcome by both of them, and Bill would always take me to the space behind the booth and show me some interesting sword-handling techniques, and I would share my insights. It was always a fun time, because there was no article in their booth that was off-limits – all I had to do was ask. I’ll always remember one particular time that we were in the grassy area behind the South Tower booth, each of us holding swords made of Damascus Steel. The sun shone brightly in the sky, reflecting off of the blades, highlighting the telltale watery pattern and blue tinge that indicated the origin of these fine swords.

A few years after meeting Bill, I had placed an order through him for a forged steel katana with which to practice Iaido. All it took was a phone call to set everything up, and he assured me that it would be on its way soon. I knew that I could rely on Bill, for he was a man of his word. A friend of mine asked if he could also get in on the order for something that he wanted – so that we could save on shipping, and I agreed. However, after about a month, I started getting antsy. It had not showed up. Bill apologized, telling me that there were some complications at the border, and that he was having a hard time getting the shipment pushed through. This actually dragged on for quite a long time, and I was getting frustrated. Little did I know, though, that my friend (who went in on the order) and Bill had planned something a bit different…

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A friend of mine wields my Paul Chen Bushido katana (bought through Bill) for a photo shoot.

My friend had actually pooled funds from a bunch of people to get a very nice folded-steel katana for my thirtieth birthday. I was puzzled when I opened up the shipping box, as I had ordered a black-handled sword with a black sheath. It took a minute to see the pattern of the blade, and the smile on my friends’ faces (there were a few of us in the room when I unwrapped it) told the rest of the story. I phoned Bill later that day and he apologized for misleading me (this was probably hard for him to do) and that he was only really sorry that he couldn’t be there to see me open it. He told me that were he there, he would have dropped an extra copy of the invoice on the sword so that I could see how sharp it was. So, in his honour, I did that very thing later on in the evening after everyone had gone to bed.

The following year, I was a groomsman at a wedding in a small town called North Gower, Ontario (a little less than a half hour south of Ottawa). Before we left home, I noted that Bill and Brenda lived not too far from there, in Metcalfe – a mere 20 minute drive from the venue that we were staying at. So, on the night before the wedding, I scooted over to hang out with the dynamic duo for a little while. Bill showed me around his house, and showed me where he made all of the cool pieces of armour – his amazing creations. Even though it was not a long visit, I enjoyed every moment of their warm hospitality. I wished that the night could have been a little longer – but I did have to rest up for a wedding the next day, so I shook hands with Bill and made my way back to North Gower.

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Bill affixing one of his creations to one of the gals that worked at the booth.

Bill and Brenda traveled a bit, and after our meeting in Metcalfe, I was treated to some photos of their adventures in Vienna, where Bill got to see their armour collections. He was like a kid in a candy store, and he related a lot of his experiences to me through excited electronic correspondence. See, Bill was a self-taught armour maker – but he was never closed-minded about the process; anything that he could learn about the making of armour and weapons was a boon to his keen mind, and he would absorb it like a hungry sponge. I was lucky enough to see some of his creations at his home – but he would bring along some of them to Fan Expo every year, where he would always manage to do well, ensuring a visit the following year. Rinse and repeat.

But last year, Bill fell ill. I saw him for what would be the last time at last year’s Fan Expo and he was still the same ol’ Bill – just a little more worn and tired. He cracked jokes at some of the younger folks asking to look at swords, telling them that they had better handle them with care “or my friends Jorge and Jeff here will make sure that you never forget.” Despite his fatigue, he still managed to convey warmth, and he still worked on repairing various pieces that were not to his satisfaction.

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Bill was always willing to share knowledge.

Over the next year, he fought like a valiant knight, but was eventually overcome. He passed away with dignity last week in the company of his loving wife, and over the course of his struggle, he has been supported by friends locally and around the world in thoughts and prayers. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye (admittedly, I thought that he would rally for an nth time), but I hope that he knows that he was amazing. When I heard the news, I didn’t know how to feel. I have been kind of wandering around in my own mind trying to piece things together, and have only finally started crying in the penning of this piece.

There is a French phrase, “Noblesse Oblige”, which literally means “nobility obliges”. It is like a code for the chivalrous, which talks of acting in accordance with one’s reputation. Bill embodied this phrase, as a wonderful husband, friend, mentor, and teacher. I learned that he not only defended his loved ones and ideals, but also his country (he was an RCAF veteran). Bill knew how to live for the cause of right, and in so doing, could very well have been a character that walked right out of a storybook, or a game that we play. Wherever Bill is now, he’s probably suiting up to stand guard and defend wherever he is so that we will all safely meet him one day.

Rest easy, my friend. On this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for being lucky enough to know you.

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