After decades of excellent health, William “Bill” Lucas Muncaster died at age 98 on March 9, 2014, in Santa Barbara. He is survived by his daughters, Emily Kay and Susan Hope; three grandchildren, Jay, John and Andrea; and great-grandchildren Tristan and Lia.
Grandson Jay said, “Grandpa, I learned everything good from you." Granddaughter Andrea stated, “I made Grandpa the Grandpa he is.”
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1915, Bill Muncaster and his three brothers were raised in Georgia, then Pennsylvania.
“In 1933, I was a junior in high school,” Bill recalled upon accepting an award in 2012 from the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County for gathering support for the organization’s Camp Whittier Golf Tournament for 20 years.
“The YMCA director asked me, ‘Willie, do you think you will ever amount to anything?’ I replied, it will take a long time, but I think someday I will. The director paused, and then he said, ‘I think maybe you are right.’
“Well, it has been 20 years that I have been helping Camp Whittier. I figure that I have raised camp scholarships for 1,200 kids a year for 20 years, or 24,000 total. Maybe it took a long time, but 80 years later I may have ‘amounted to something.’ Thank you for the many years of friendship that helped me to accomplish these works.”
“She was born on a Monday, baptized on Tuesday, and I was shipped overseas to Germany on Wednesday,” he said.
Bill served in the 99th Infantry Division as acting commander of 1,200 men. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, holding off the Germans at the German-Belgium border, which engaged more than 1 million German and American troops, killing 81,000 Americans and 100,000 Germans, the worst battle for casualties of WWII. During the “coldest, snowiest weather in memory,” Bill’s feet froze during those 10 days of combat.
Ultimately, that injury brought him to the warm climate of Santa Barbara in 1947. He built a 2,200-square-foot home with his brother, Robert, an architect, in Goleta near Patterson Avenue. There his second daughter, Susan Hope, was born. Shortly thereafter, Bill became a widower. He later married Rebecca “Becky” Hellerman. Bill and Becky loved to go to military balls and always supported veterans’ causes. Since Becky’s death in 1996, Bill has kept busy playing golf, helping the Boys & Girls Clubs, and participating in the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge #613.
During his long history in Santa Barbara, Bill took a temporary position with the U.S. Postal Service in 1952, becoming the first “walking mailman’” in Goleta.
“The town was so small I could deliver all the mail myself up to 1957,” he said. “There were only 73 houses between Storke Road and Isla Vista. Mailmen were expected to know the names and addresses of all the houses on their route. It took the postal service over two years to requisition a mail truck to help deliver to our rapidly expanding population. So I ended up renting trucks to the government for the next 17 years!”
This entrepreneurial spirit was in evidence over the years as Bill got involved in the making of many Goleta institutions.
“It all took place on the golf course,” he reflected.
Bill was an avid golfer for most of his life and played well into his 90s.
“I gave up my membership seven years ago at Alisal Ranch because I just couldn’t hit the long drives anymore,” he said.
It was on the golf course where Muncaster gathered startup money for Spectrum Technology (an electronics firm that developed the first color camera to take photos on the moon) and Columnated Holes (a developer of fiber optics that helps dentists use cameras in the mouth). His golf buddies also funded Goleta Entrepreneurial Funding, which helped to start Goleta National Bank, now Community West Bank.
“My second wife Becky (Hellerman) was the first customer to go up to the counter and open the first account in 1987,” he said proudly.
In 1954, Bill guaranteed the funds to pay for plumbing at the first Goleta library, which was located in Old Town Goleta on Hollister Avenue and Tecolote Lane. Bill and Becky founded the Goleta American Veterans, which started the first child-care center on the old Goleta Union School District property.
“One day I came home and there was a Presbyterian minister in my living room,” he said. “My wife told me that he wanted to start a church in Goleta and that we were going to help.”
This led to the establishment of Goleta Presbyterian Church, which Bill attended until his death at 98 years.
Along with the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge #613, Bill was active with many veterans’ organizations, including the Military Order of World Wars. One of his most treasured memories was riding in an officer’s car in the 2013 Veterans Day Parade in Santa Barbara. Bill was moved by the many parade observers who waved and saluted as he rode down State Street.
Bill was a wonderful and modest man who did many great deeds without fanfare and often credit. He is loved by so many in our community. Thank you, Bill.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose has been Bill Muncaster’s friend for 40 years.