by Henry Lane Hull
The term “Renaissance man” is one of the most overworked expressions in the English language and for nearly two weeks I have been thinking of how to describe Bill Nunn without using it. At last, with the deadline for submission nearing, I have no choice but to use it, for Bill was the epitome of what a true Renaissance man was.
Bill was born in Texas, where his father was assigned in the U.S. Army. All his life he was the quintessential learner, always eager to know all that he could about any topic that arose. He was a brilliant student, who went off to college at the University of Wyoming, then began the first phase of his own military service, which in its later second phase defined the remainder of his life, but first he travelled to Germany to study at the University of Heidelberg.
While there he met his future wife, Ute, with whom he was married for 55 years. Ute was Bill’s equal in all aspects of life and together they were truly a unit in every respect. They returned to the U.S. and Bill completed his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Virginia, after which he commenced his second tour of duty in the U.S. Army.
This time he saw service in Vietnam where in 1970 he suffered the loss of his lower left leg in combat. His family here in White Stone learned of his wounding, with the assurance that he had been evacuated to safety. I think that at every church in the lower Northern Neck the congregations were praying for his successful recovery. Those prayers were answered in abundance.
With Ute’s encouragement Bill then matriculated at American University in Washington where he earned a law degree, after which he worked as a prosecutor in Arlington County, prior to returning to the Northern Neck to practice law in White Stone. Bill combined the reasoned judgment of a philosopher with the incisive logic of a superb debater. In court he was uniformly stellar in representing his clients and in private consultations about their estate planning and other legal matters he was the solicitous friend who was ever conscious of placing their interests first.
Bill’s injury in wartime in no way reduced his interests and abilities in living life to the fullest. He liked to skydive, ride horses, go hunting and usher at church. He especially was fascinated by German history and culture, an appropriate pastime given his marriage to Ute. In conversation he liked to wait for others to speak up and then offer his own perceptions and comments, which inevitably led them to view the topic being considered in new and engaging terms.
When Bill walked along, no one observing him would have known that he had lost a leg. He did not speak of his injury and neither wanted nor expected anyone’s sympathy. He was more concerned with helping others with their problems in life than in reflecting on his own past misfortune. His clients knew that he was totally there for their benefit, the ultimate person of trust.
Each year Ute and Bill hosted a wonderful Christmas party, the centerpiece of the smorgasbord being a large platter of Ute’s exquisitely prepared venison from deer that Bill had hunted. When guests would be leaving, thanking them for the evening, Bill would reply, “It wouldn’t be the same without you.” When I learned of his death earlier this month, I thought of that comment that he sincerely made to his guests, for indeed the Northern Neck would not have been the same these past four decades without Bill.
He was a man of extraordinary intellectual capacity and great humanity, both of which he used for the benefit and well-being of those around him. Happily this “Renaissance man” chose to use them in our midst.
William Albert Nunn, III, Esquire, December 26, 1936 – September 13, 2007. R.I.P.