William “Bill” Gielow

Date of Birth

February 2, 1947

Date of Death

March 15, 2020

Resident of Soquel and Santa Barbara, CA Bill Gielow “has left the garden,” but his passion provides survivors vivid visual memories of his talent as a landscape designer. His garden work reflected the way he committed fully to nurturing, supporting and appreciating individuality in mankind. He brightened every panorama or situation he approached with his respectful and curious personality and enlightened craft, and there were a lot of panoramas in his full life.

Bill was an intelligent, humble, and compassionate human being who’s broad pursuits generated legions of friends and acquaintances. His foremost interest and love was given to his immediate family, including his son Ryan, daughter in law Anwanur, and grandchildren Samona (14), Andrew (11) and Emmett (6). They were at his bedside in the end, as was his spouse of 31 years, Mark Sachau. During his life Bill embraced and genuinely enjoyed his extended family, too, in Wisconsin, California, Nevada and Italy, as well Mark’s family in Southern California.

Bill’s life journey is a worthy share. He and his younger sister, Marisa, were “Army Brats.” His mother, Fiorella was an Italian war bride. His father, Leon, was a career infantryman who served in WWII, Korea and VietNam. Leon married Fiorella in Italy and Bill was born in Wisconsin “9 months to the day” after their wedding, as family lore has it. Bill’s family moved with their father from base to base across the country and then spent time in the summers with his mother’s Italian family, where he learned to lyrically speak the language, and yes, play the accordion. He loved his Italian roots and cousins in Rome and Civitavecchia and visited whenever possible. In the meantime his father’s roots were in Wisconsin where Bill and his devoted band of cousins played in barns and fields.

During his formative years in Davis, CA, his cousins Wendell, Glenn and Terence Cottle were an important part of the family milieu. Their mother, Marisa Cottle, was an identical twin sister with Bill’s mother and all the kids agreed it was as if they had two mothers to contend with. Bill’s father, mother and sister all predeceased him.

It’s no surprise to those who knew Bill during his school years that he was an exceptional student with a keen mind for science, math, and geography. Being Salutatorian of his Davis High class of 1965 was just a beginning. He attended UCSB where he earned a Masters Degree in Molecular Biology and was Phi Beta Kappa. He stayed on as a lab technician for another 14 years working on sophisticated projects with top experts in that field. His beloved college roommates still gather annually to celebrate their cohesion, diversity and support for each other. While their friendship is the catalyst for reunion, Bill’s pasta sauce may have been the original glue. After his stint working at the university his career interests migrated to plant cultivation and collection, professional gardening, and finally landscape design.

During college Bill fell in love with Linda Coutts, the more organized counterpart of his broad interests and intellectual capacities. They married and settled in Santa Barbara and together produced their son Ryan. As Bill developed his interests in plants and landscaping, folk dancing, bird watching, world travel, bee keeping, sustainable farming, beach and park clean-up, and all types of music (Hawaiian music and culture were some of his favorite escapes), he wholeheartedly embraced the people and organizations that broadened his knowledge base.

Here’s the part you won’t read in most obituaries. In their 30s both Bill and Mark realized they were attracted to men and began Phase II of their life’s journey. They found each other in their early 40s through an introduction by mutual friends and they fell permanently and thoroughly in love, supported and even celebrated in their union by their families, friends and neighbors. Together for 31 years Bill and Mark built a life that was nothing short of idyllic including extraordinary world travel, family celebrations, voluntary community support  and building homes and gardens for themselves and their precious pets.

The world’s a much better place because Bill Gielow was here. Bill died after suffering a traumatic stroke on his way home from Stanford Hospital where he had been treated by an astute medical team for a complex neurological condition called a brain AVM.
During his life his volunteer work supported causes he considered essential for an improved future for the communities he cherished and the grandkids, nieces and nephews he adored. There are no immediate plans for a gathering to celebrate Bill’s life because of the current Covid-19 required isolations. His charities of choice were the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County(landtrustsantacruz.org), an open space and agricultural land preservation non-profit where he served on the board, and the Santa Barbara Westside Neighborhood Clinic (sbclinics.org), a non-profit community medical facility where he volunteered in the past. His family would be honored should you choose to donate to either of those organizations in his memory, or any charity of your choice.


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