William “Bill” Horton
William Charles Horton (Bill), age 91, beloved father, grandfather, mentor, and friend, passed away peacefully on December 11, 2020, in Santa Barbara, California. Known to all as Bill, he was a pioneering and well- respected typographer and graphic artist. He spent much of his life creating beautiful print media and elegant designs, and helping members of the local design community realize their potential. He carried on this spirit of generosity to the very end of his life.
Bill was a highly visual, creative, and tactile person, always appreciating the beauty in nature, people, the built environment, and on the page. As a young man, Bill developed skills in many arts and crafts, including print- making, painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, furniture building, and electronics. Possessing a keen ability to understand how things worked, Bill was good with tools and his hands and could fix anything put in front of him.
Bill was an honest and wholesome man who possessed great integrity. He preferred chocolate milk over whiskey; wildflowers over a deck of playing cards; and well-made thrift store clothing over the latest fashions. He loved dogs, big trees, mountains, rivers, flowers, funghi, and being outdoors.
Born in Great Falls, Montana, Bill enjoyed an idyllic and rustic childhood in small towns in Wyoming and Washington. In 1941, his family moved to Port Angeles, Washington, where Bill attended Roosevelt Junior High School and met his life-long friend, George Elliot, with whom he continued to keep in close touch until the last few days of his life.
In 1947, the family moved to Milton, Washington, where Bill graduated from high school. Later, he attended Tacoma Vocational School, studying radio. After graduating in 1950, he landed his first job as a disc jockey and engineer with a radio station in Spokane, Washington.
Bill was a veteran of the Korean War, having served as a soldier in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953 in a non-combat role. The experience of war left an indelible mark on Bill, creating in him a deep aversion to violence and a gravitation toward pacifism.
After serving in Korea, Bill took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There he met Korean student Sung-in Choe, whom he married in 1955. The newlyweds spent carefree days at the beach and running around the pineapple groves of Honolulu. Soon after, they relocated to Walla Walla, Washington, where Bill landed a job as a radio announcer. He then took another radio job in Eugene, Oregon, where he and Sung-in lived as Bohemians in a sparsely furnished apartment decorated with home-made cinder block, wood, and corduroy furniture. During this time, the couple immersed themselves in the arts-and-crafts scene, taking an evening ceramics class at the University of Oregon where they learned to make pottery. They also made prints, crafted clothing, and listened to classical music, opera, and jazz.
In 1959, the couple relocated to Santa Barbara, where Bill landed a job as a radio announcer and sound engineer at classical radio station KTMS FM. They eventually bought a house on the Mesa, and Bill’s daughter Tara, his only child, was born.
Following radio, Bill was a printer at Noel Young’s Capra Press, where he further developed his design skills. It was during this time that Bill became acquainted with some of the artists and free spirits involved in the well-documented Mountain Drive scene. In 1970, Bill and Sung-in divorced, yet remained friends. Around that time, Bill decided to go into business for himself.
In the early 1970s, Bill met Wendy Foster and began a close friendship that would endure until the end of Bill’s life. With Wendy, Bill established Foster & Horton Graphics, a graphic design and typesetting shop that served hundreds of local clients for almost three decades. Known affectionately as “FoHo,” Bill’s business employed many aspiring artists and designers during its heyday from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.
In 1975, Bill met Georgia Thrailkill. The two quickly developed a friendly rapport and were married in 1976. Bill and Georgia first lived together in the historic Masini Adobe on Sheffield Drive in Montecito, where Bill would invite friends over to view 35 mm prints of classic films projected onto a large screen in the oversized living room.
During their marriage, Bill and Georgia became involved in the United Lodge of Theosophists, a spiritual community that influenced the way they ran the graphics business and fueled their desire to put into practice the ideals of Gandhian nonviolence and brotherhood. They remained active in “the Lodge” until the late 1980s. Bill and Georgia divorced in 1989, yet remained friends.
In 1994, Bill moved into a loft space at El Zoco, a new live/work community for artists on W. Gutierrez Street in Santa Barbara. With the fully staffed graphics business behind him, Bill continued to work under the business name Foster & Horton as a Macintosh desktop designer and continued to serve clients into his early 80s. Many will remember fondly Bill’s beloved Australian Shepherd dog, Cheena, who would lie faithfully at his feet as he worked.
Over the past decade, Bill continued to live at El Zoco, but had slowed down considerably. He rented out the upstairs part of his loft to friends Tom Moore and Brian Bailey during this time, and enjoyed their companionship. He continued to tinker with his Macintosh computer, enjoy the company of his El Zoco neighbors, keep in touch with friends near and far, and stay current on news and media on his computer.
Over the last three years, Bill benefited greatly from the steadfast support of longtime friends Rik and Dianna Peirson, who grocery shopped and visited regularly. Bill received hot meals delivered by Food from the Heart, a local nonprofit. His daughter Tara visited regularly and kept in close contact by phone.
Bill’s magnanimous nature attracted new friends wherever he went. He served as a kind of nexus for the Santa Barbara graphics community, mentoring neophytes in graphic design; sharing his skills, knowledge, and software; and opening doors for aspiring artists by introducing them to his vast network of professional and personal contacts.
Bill lived his life fully and on his own terms. Although fiercely independent, he maintained many close friendships, many of which exceeded half a century. He gave freely of his time, talent, and energy, expecting nothing in return. He was a kind, generous, smart, artistic, curious, patient, pragmatic and humorous man, and a loving and devoted father to his daughter.
Bill is predeceased by his parents, Roy and Marjorie Horton, and his sister, Eileen Wallis. He is survived by his daughter, Tara Horton McCulloch of Oakland, CA; granddaughter Pearl McCulloch; son-in-law Derek McCulloch; niece Victoria (Wallis) Kelley; and nephew Brad Wallis.
Bill’s daughter wishes to extend her special gratitude to the compassionate staff at Serenity House – VNA Health, for providing comfortable hospice care for Bill in his final weeks.
No memorial service is planned at this time. Donations in Bill’s memory may be made to Food from the Heart of Santa Barbara, PO Box 3908, Santa Barbara, CA 93130.