Bill Sherwood was a man of many passions, from public education to causes ranging from protecting the environment to eliminating poverty and racism.
Sherwood, 68, died unexpectedly Wednesday while on vacation in Florida, his brother, David Sherwood, said. A retired teacher in the Davenport School District, he currently was a member of the school board.
Vera Kelly, president of the Davenport NAACP Branch 4019, recently worked with Sherwood on a committee to help reduce the impact of poverty on education.
“He was always working to better the community in some way,” Kelly said Wednesday night. “He also was a man who liked everybody regardless of the color of their skin. He worked to make the community better for everyone.”
David Sherwood said his brother had gone to Florida on Saturday. He was hiking with a friend Wednesday when he felt dizzy and collapsed. Paramedics could not revive him, David Sherwood said.
“He had many interests, and really loved to travel and learn new things,” David Sherwood said of his brother. “He was very eclectic in his interests. He was constantly learning. We used to have battles on history and I was always losing. One night many years ago we were watching 'Jeopardy' together and he didn’t miss a question.”
David Sherwood said that Bill loved Facebook and its reach and just recently had 30-40 posts on his Facebook page on renewable energy.
“He had just lost more than 150 pounds, had a knee replaced a couple of months ago and had gastric bypass surgery,” his brother said. “Bill was getting into fantastic shape. Nobody expected this.”
Among those offering tributes Wednesday was Davenport Community School Superintendent Art Tate.
“It’s so sudden and unexpected just because he was looking so healthy and so vigorous in the last few months and we were all so proud of the progress he was making," Tate said.
"As a board member, he constantly challenged the administration to think outside the box, consider all the options and certainly made us do our homework before he would approve any of our recommendations.”
“The district is better not only for his service as a teacher for years and years and years, but also as a board member where he could guide policy,” Tate said. “Personally, I shall miss him.”
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba also praised Sherwood's contributions to the community.
“Bill was a community activist, scholar, school teacher and a wonderful public servant,” Gluba said. He added that Sherwood “was a man of strong convictions about peace, social justice, workers’ rights and the need to protect our environment and he fought with great passion in support of these beliefs.”
Phil Yerington, who served as mayor Davenport from 1998-2002 when Sherwood was an at-large alderman, said his death is very sad.
“Bill is one of those guys I will always think in my mind that I let politics have a very negative effect on what was a very good friendship,” Yerington said. “I didn’t do as good of a job of communicating with him as I should have. We had things we believed in, but we didn’t believe in the same things. Neither one of us was ready to make concessions. But he was a good man.”
Former school board member Patt Zamora said she had seen Sherwood just before Christmas.
“He was a very, very intelligent man, and he had had a lot of experiences in life that people didn’t know about,” Zamora said. “He’s a lot more cosmopolitan than people realized. He was a passionate man who believed in what he believed in, but that’s OK. We could disagree civilly.”
Richard Clewell, vice president of the school board, said Sherwood had been on the board for 3½ years and was not planning to run again.
“I don’t know what he was planning to do once he got off the board but I’m sure he was not just going to travel and give up on trying to change the world or promote the issue he felt strongly about,” Clewell said.
“Bill was an independent spirit, a multi-talented, multi-dimensional man, very intelligent man who was passionate about his beliefs in ways to better the community,” Clewell added. “We have to pitch in and make up for what’s lost, which of course we never will.”