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"The One"

September 28, 2023

Butch (Wendell) dated around for a few years, but didn’t feel he was ready to settle down and marry.

Then he attended a wedding with a friend.  At the wedding reception, he told his friend that he was bored and wanted to leave.  Karen Arkebauer overheard his comment and whirled around and introduced herself.

So they began talking, and Butch was smitten and REALLY wanted to see Karen again.  Karen was interested too because she agreed to a date with him.

After they dated awhile, he realized she was “The One”.  He then sat me down, told me he was going to ask Karen to marry him, and watched for my reaction.

Now Karen and I had attended Columbia Union College at the same time.  But our paths did not cross because our curricula were different.  We were never in the same class.  Still, I got to know her from Butch dating her and felt she and Butch would have a good marriage.

But this was my Big Brother, and I had the typical jealousy of others who infringed on his time, attention and love.  But I sucked it in and said, “GREAT”!

Butch did the romantic, chivalrous thing and asked Karen’s father Paul if he could have Karen’s hand in marriage.  Paul initially gave Butch a hard time, but then relented and gave his permission.

They married in 1975, and waited five years before starting a family.  Then we welcomed Laura into our family.  Then a few years later, we welcomed Wendell III, aka Woody, aka Woodchuck (the nickname my sister Bonnie bestowed on him).

Butch and Karen celebrated 48 wedding anniversaries

Reichenbach & Hill

September 23, 2023
In the 60’s and 70’s a popular comedy TV show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, aired. It was hosted by Dan Rowan, who served as the serious straight guy, and Dick Martin, who balanced the act as the funny goofy guy.

Butch (Wendell) and Kurt Reichenbach developed their own comedy routine inspired by the show.  They faced the challenge of coming up with a name for it.  Would it be “Hill & Reichenbach”, or “Reichenbach & Hill”?  As an innocent bystander to the “discussions”, I witnessed the back-and-forth that went on for hours.  Egos were at stake.  I guess Kurt eventually wore Butch down and won out, and “Reichenbach & Hill” was born.

Each routine involved hours of writing, memorizing and rehearsing the skit. There were no cue cards or teleprompters for them.

They won the top award at several Takoma Academy talent shows.  They also performed at TA reunions.  Occasionally they would drag me into a skit when they needed an extra body.  Even though I was terrified of being on stage, this was fun.  

I know how lucky I was to have such talented brothers. 

The Top Real Estate Agent

September 6, 2023

Wendell (Butch) took to real estate and quickly became a top agent at what was then Coldwell Banker. The top agents soon realized that they could keep more of the sales commission, and have more flexibility in managing their work, if they moved to a company like RE/MAX.  He did this and continued setting records there.

The manager of his RE/MAX office had a practice of holding meetings so the less experienced agents could learn from the top producers.  Wendell knew this was a waste of HIS time.  He would be teaching the Newbies, but was not learning anything himself.  In exasperation he finally told the manager, “There’s no one in this room I can sell a house to!!”  So that’s how he recused himself from attending those dreadful meetings.

He served as my agent when I bought both my houses, and sold my first house.  He always went above and beyond what most agents would do.  This included—and I am not making this up—helping to capture the mice that were using my (by then vacant) house to party in!

Settlements were always a big deal in my family, with photos taken.  The above photo was at Laura's settlement.  I was always so grateful that I had my Bro as my trusted real estate agent.

The Self-Taught Artist

September 5, 2023
When we were growing up, our family traveled across the country camping in our Shasta travel trailer. There were long stretches of car driving time with Butch and me in the back seat trying not to be bored kids.  He used this time to teach himself how to draw.

He started drawing by copying the images from comic books.  Then we went to Disneyland.  He learned that the animation from Disney cartoons was done through “flip books”.  These were decks of blank sheets of paper that you would draw on, with the images changing slightly on each page to create the illusion of movement when the pages were flipped.  He taught himself how to create flip books.

I was in awe that he USED INK TO DRAW!!  In my feeble attempts to follow his lead, I used pencil with plenty of erasing.  But he drew using black Bic pens.

Only later did he take professional art lessons through his college art major.  By that time he already knew most of the important things about art.

In creating art projects, he was a perfectionist.  His first job as a professional artist was working for a print shop.  His boss was impatient when he spent too much time perfecting an art assignment.  He blurted something like, “Hey Hill…this ain’t the Sistine Chapel”, to get him to move things along faster.  But his preference was to get things perfect, even if it took more of his time.

"Wendell the Great"

September 3, 2023
When we were kids, we went to a birthday party for Bruce Bainum.  As entertainment, instead of the usual clown, Jane Bainum brought in a professional magician, “Alfred the Great”.  Butch was immediately smitten.
So for his birthdays, Mom would take us down to Al’s Magic Shop and buy him some magic tricks for his birthday presents.  He really took to it, practiced a lot, and “Wendell the Great” was born. 
When he thought he had perfected a trick, he asked me to be the guinea pig.  He would try the trick out on me to see it was if it was ready to be performed before a live audience as “Wendell the Great”. So I got to see every new trick before the rest of the world.  Lucky me!  And lucky me to have such a talented and creative brother.

A Born Leader

August 29, 2023
Some people lead; others follow. My Bro’ Butch (Wendell) was one of those born leaders.

From childhood, he demonstrated leadership when he organized the neighborhood kids on “projects” and things to do. The kids were drawn to him because of his outgoing personality and infectious enthusiasm for each undertaking.

As an adult, he organized and led groups of friends on projects like elaborate Halloween parties. Just one example is the Who Dunnit Halloween party. For this event, guests drove to houses that contained the clues as to who did the fictitious murder. The guests would win if they could figure out who did it. He assembled and directed the group of disparate people serving as hosts. His group of friends/hosts developed the clues for each clue house, and he directed implementing the project.

Later in life, his diplomacy and communication skills contributed to his success as a top real estate agent. His skill in bringing the parties together in agreement ensured the deals closed successfully at settlement.

I could write volumes about his life, and will add some more tributes and stories later.

— His Sistah Kate (Kathy)

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