Coach William Robert “Bill” Farrar
Nov. 15, 1924 – Oct. 9, 2019
William Robert “Bill” Farrar of Geneva, Alabama, passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, at his home surrounded by his loving family. He was 94 years old.
Bill was born on Nov. 15, 1924, to Wymen Perry and Sarah Murphy Farrar. As a boy, Bill grew up in a mill family in Phenix City, Alabama. During a mill worker strike, Bill’s family moved back to the homestead, where he lived with his parents, grandparents, two aunts, cousins, brother and sister. They stayed in the little shack, plowing the fields, until Bill’s dad found work again. Bill’s mother would make her children shirts out of flour sacks, and he always hoped that his shirt wouldn’t be the one that said “flour” on it.
Bill had a strong work ethic instilled in him from an early age. When he and his brother Pete needed spending money, they went to the local creek to sane for minnows to sell. When they realized they needed a better way to keep the minnows alive, they built a “cement pond” they kept stocked. Nearly nine decades later, his great-grandson would call him “Minnow Man.”
Although Bill would eventually spend a great deal of time in school, his love of the classroom didn’t always exist. He and his friends would skip school to go squirrel hunting, wander in the woods, climb trees or swim in the creek. When he got the itch for a little adventure, he’d hop aboard a train and ride the rails, which he always said was more fun than going to school. He was fearless, which helped shape him into the man he would one day become. He had lots of friends and lots of fun.
Bill was drafted into World War II when he was a junior in high school. He and his buddy decided the Navy was the most exciting of the military branches, and were sent first to San Francisco, then to a cargo ship in Australia and the Philippines. Although they weren’t involved in heavy fighting, there was a gun on the ship into which Bill loaded the bullets… backwards.
War didn’t lessen Bill’s penchant for a good time. Once, anchored near an island, the captain told him they were not to leave the ship. But the island was filled with pretty girls in grass skirts, and Bill and his buddy jumped off the ship and swam to the island to “investigate.” However, they lost track of time and when they looked up, the ship was leaving. His friend made it back to the ship, but Bill didn’t, so he swam back to the island and hitch hiked to meet the ship at its next port. Although he told this story many times, he never could seem to remember if he got into trouble for his antics.
After his stint in the Navy was over, Bill returned to Phenix City, graduated from high school and started playing on one of the local mills’ baseball teams. But when a Navy buddy called him from Troy and told him they had a baseball team, he cashed in his GI Bill, hitch hiked to Troy to see what it was all about, then hitch hiked back home to leave his mother a note telling her he was going to college.
Bill played baseball at Troy State for one year before their program was disbanded due to financial reasons. Bill signed with a class D professional baseball team out of Ozark and began a career as a professional baseball player in the Alabama-Florida league. At the height of his career, he made $350 per month to play. However, many years later, he said, “They didn’t know it, but they wouldn’t have had to pay me anything.” He loved the game that much.
When he wasn’t playing ball, Bill and his friends had a favorite pastime of watching the new freshmen arrive and helping them carry their suitcases up to their dorm rooms. Among those freshman was a pretty girl from Geneva, Alabama – Floree Jacobs. He picked that suitcase up and has been carrying it ever since.
Bill and Floree were opposites. While she was studious, she would often see him heading to the golf course during the day while she was studying. Although he didn’t have much money, he saved what he earned to buy a car so he could take Floree home to Geneva on the weekends.
They met in September and were married the following August, in a Geneva church without air conditioning. The rumors are true – during the middle of the ceremony, dressed in a tuxedo and tight shoes, Bill fainted and collapsed on the floor. Floree knelt down beside him in her puffy white dress and insisted he get up. He did as he was told, and they finished the ceremony. On the way out of town, Bill’s “episode” made it hard for him to keep the car between the lines. They were pulled over by a police officer who, when he saw who was driving, said, “Buddy, you’ve had a hard day. You go on home.”
Bill’s first job after college was at Highland Home, where he was head football coach, head basketball coach and head baseball coach. After his time there, he and Floree moved to Coffee Springs and then on to Stone Mountain near Atlanta, where he worked in the elementary school and Floree worked in the high school. But the “big city” was more than either of them wanted.
Luckily, Bill heard about an opening for a baseball coach at Geneva High School. He and Floree and their two young children moved back to Floree’s home town, where Bill would spend the next 34 years in the Geneva school system, serving as a P.E. teacher, baseball coach and principal in the adopted city he loved.
Bill and Floree welcomed their daughter, Sheree, in 1956 and son, Robin, 16 months later. Bill was a loving, devoted father, imparting his “country boy” wisdom to his children. Sheree and Robin called their daddy “Beee-ullll,” because that’s what they heard their mama call him. He was more than a father – he was a playmate, bringing home rattle snakes in ketchup bottles or rescuing baby squirrels for Sheree to bottle feed.
Bill taught Sheree and Robin how to flip over logs (it’s where the best bugs are), catch critters, swim, explore and enjoy being a kid. He ensured Sheree and Robin were never without the best treehouses in town, complete with slides, ladders and a daredevil rope swing over ravines and rivers (without Floree knowing, of course). He taught his children to be self-sufficient, to have a love of nature and animals and, most importantly, to be kind.
Although Bill instilled in Sheree and Robin the value of playing outside, creating your own fun and not depending on material items to make them happy, he also made sure that Christmases, birthdays, Easters and more were extra special, mostly because he didn’t have that growing up.
Bill retired in 1986 and would spend the next 30 years raising cattle, growing crops, wood working and spending time with Floree. The two traveled extensively across the globe: Greece, Turkey, Hawaii, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, France, Great Britain, Argentina and more. Bill loved to grow things and loved his cows. He had acres of scuppernongs and peaches, nectarines, blueberries, bananas, pomegranates, persimmons and plums.
He went to Gilstrap Drug Store every morning for coffee with guys. Floree dressed Bill every day of his life after they were married, but when she wasn’t in town, he’d often show up at the drug store in one green shoe and one red shoe, which didn’t bother him a bit.
He was president of the Rotary Club and responsible for a program in which he wore a beret, told stories about Floree and the “Phenix City Mob” and played the harmonica to “I Found my Thrill on Blueberry Hill” while Joe Paul played the saxophone. A fellow member later told Floree it was the best program the group had ever had.
Later in life, he enjoyed traveling to Auburn on football weekends and tailgating with Sheree and her family, going to Dallas to visit Robin and Bill and going out to dinner with friends.
Although the stories about Bill Farrar are legendary, perhaps more important is the legacy he leaves behind. Bill was good to countless children. He was a father figure to many. He showed an interest in them, cared about them and made sure they knew they mattered. He never cussed, yelled or raised his voice to his players – he just coached them. And he did it well. Many people said they wouldn’t have achieved what they did without Bill’s influence in their lives.
He never saw differences in people. Everyone was the same no matter your color, ability or how much money you had. He was kind to everyone – he never said an unkind word about anyone, ever. He was a mentor to countless individuals throughout his life.
Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at the First United Methodist Church in Geneva, with Pastor Tony Rosetta officiating. Burial will follow at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery, with Warren Holloway Ward Funeral Home of Geneva directing. The family will receive friends at the Church on Sunday beginning at 1:30 p.m., and will continue until service time.
Bill is preceded in death by his parents, Wymen Perry and Sarah Murphy Farrar; son-in-law Robert M. Harper; and one sister, Mary Frances Farrar Smythe.
He is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Floree Jacobs Farrar of Geneva, AL; daughter Sheree Farrar Harper of Auburn, AL; son William Robert “Robin” Farrar, Jr., of Carrollton, TX; Bill Green of Carrollton, Texas; granddaughter Katy Harper Doss (Alex) of Auburn, AL; great-grandson, Robert Miller Doss of Auburn, AL; and brother Pete Farrar of Montgomery, AL.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Coach Farrar’s memory to the First United Methodist Church, 304 South Academy Street, Geneva, AL 36340.