William McNamara

Date of Death

March 1, 2021

William McNamara passed away on March 1 after a yearlong fight with laryngeal cancer. Bill was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, the only child of William E. McNamara and Louise Lau McNamara. As a child, he survived life-threatening burns that left him scarred but strong and determined, as well as close to the uncle who “broke” him out of the hospital and took him on a Route 66 road trip to reinvigorate his lust for life. When he was a young man, his search for truth led him to Catholicism, and he lived the rest of his life a faithful and devoted member of the Church.

He attended the University of Michigan, earning BS degrees in both Mathematics and Aeronautical Engineering, then earned his Doctor of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautical Engineering at MIT in 1966. In 1963, while working on his doctorate at MIT, he met the love of his life, Elaine, who was working in Boston at the time. They married and just over a year later welcomed their first child, Tony. Bill was offered a job at General Electric Tempo in Santa Barbara, so they moved west and settled down. Their daughters, Cherie and Stephanie, were born there and the family grew up in the home Bill and Elaine built in the foothills of Santa Barbara.

Bill was a faithful parishioner of St. Raphael”s Catholic Church, where he was a Eucharistic Minister for many years, and an active member of the Knights of Columbus, where he served in a number of senior positions including Grand Knight in 1990-1991. He enjoyed membership in the Santa Barbara Elk”s Lodge for numerous years as well. He attended and assisted at countless swim meets for his kids over the years and was a lifelong swimmer himself. The family drove across the country several times while the kids were growing up, visiting 47 states in their tent trailer, the “Hilton on Wheels.” During retirement, Bill and Elaine enjoyed traveling the world, visiting parts of Europe and Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand.

In his later years, Bill felt called to be a docent at the Santa Barbara Mission and immersed himself in Mission history. He shared his knowledge with anyone who showed interest, and had so much information that, for the sake of time, he had to choose what not to include during the 12 years that he led tours of the Mission.

Bill is survived by his wife of 56 years, Elaine; his children William Antony (Tony) McNamara, Cherie Connolly (Cam) and Stephanie Farris (Bryan); and his grandchildren Madeleine Connolly, Genevieve Connolly, Hayden Farris and Coultrup Farris.

The family would like to thank Dr. Gupta and Dr. Suh, and their nurse navigator Cindy, as well as Dr. Mester, nurse Nick and aide Veronica, at Cottage Hospital for their tireless kindness and care during Bill”s illness.


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