The news of the passing of our friend Bill Southard struck all of us really hard. I use the terms “our” and “us” because Bill was a friend to everyone who ever worked in the home entertainment business. Just take a look at the outpouring of grief on social media from those that knew Bill and you will find a sadness that fills their hearts in every message posted.
Bill was just one of the good guys that stayed true to his love of God, his wife, Susan, and their son, Andy. He was also a great worker who excelled in any position he was in. It’s no secret that over the years the family of home entertainment folks has shrunk to a precious few, but Bill was able to withstand the mergers, layoffs and closings to still enjoy a position at Ingram Entertainment.
They were lucky to have him.
Bill was one of us that was there from the beginning. I worked with him at PolyGram Entertainment. Always a pleasure to be around, Bill treated customers in a way that we all learned from. In an age where you were expected to entertain, Bill became legendary for his extravagant VSDA dinners. If you were lucky enough to attend, you never forgot it. If you witnessed a long stretch limo pulling up in front of the hotel, you knew it was Bill. He treated the customers like they were royalty and reaped the rewards for doing so.
But Bill was more than a good co-worker. He was a true friend. Even though an entire country stood between us, he was still one of the first to reach out to me when I lost my daughter Kate and subsequently was one of the few who knew and helped me through a bout with cancer a few years back.
At times months would pass where we didn’t talk, but I always knew he was there. I’ll miss knowing that. I’ll also miss him calling me “Joey.” My closest friends call me that and throughout the years, whenever I heard his voice, I knew it was a pal on the other line.
People come and go in our lives, but some live on in our hearts long after they have gone. They leave a mark. Bill always had the sense that we will all be together again in heaven, and I think of that today. It’s comforting. One of the best gifts I have ever received is a Bible Bill gave me years ago. He had my name engraved on it. It sits on my bookshelf here in my office as a reminder of our long friendship. There are a lot of us out there that have similar stories of Bill. We are all so lucky to have had him as a friend.
See you up there buddy.
Joe Amodei is president and CEO of Virgil Films & Entertainment.