October 20, 2014

Bill Nordoff: 1944 - 2012

 

PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTINE ADKINS

Bill Nordoff:  1944 - 2012

BILL NORDOFF: 1944 2012

A memorial service for Bill Nordhoff is planned for August 11, from 12 - 4 p.m., at Ribbit Plant & Nursery, 310 Old Topanga Canyon Road.

Nordhoff passed away at Kaiser Permanente hospital the morning of July 5, of lung cancer at age 68.

Nordhoff is notably descended from journalist Charles Nordhoff (1830-1901), for whom Nordhoff Street was named, and for whom the town of Ojai was originally named, until it was changed due to anti-German sentiment of World War I. The public high school there has remained Nordhoff High School.

Charles seems to have passed along his writing skills to his son, Walter, author of “The Journey of the Flame,” and his grandson, Charles Bernard Nordhoff, who is most remembered for the 1932 novel, “Mutiny on the Bounty,” co-written with James Norman Hall.

In 2008, Bill was featured in the Topanga Messenger with his dog, Stiltz, when his roadside rock art display caught the attention of writer Sage Knight. (See “Old Topanga Rocks on!” Messenger, Vol 32 No 18, September 11, 2008.)

According to the article, he lived in the Canyon since 1968 after leaving his job on the NBC-TV comedy show, “Laugh In,” to “wash dishes at the Moonfire for $4 an hour.”

He is also remembered as a legendary comrade of The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, and helped him overcome his stage fright and called him “Melonhead.”

A friend, Greg van Zuyen, said, “he once told me that he was Jerry’s best friend only on ‘this side of the Rockies.’” He also recalled that Nordhoff reportedly ran the Dead’s nursery room during shows. “Parents would drop off their kids and he’d look after them, saying, ‘[There’s] no more sober responsibility than that.’”

Nordhoff is survived by his beloved dog and companion, Stiltz, and many friends who will miss him.