Spevak: Readers reflect on Bill, Ruben

January 31, 2011 

It’s time again for readers of this column to have their voices heard.

In response to a short note I included about the death of Bill Eagleton, who lived for many years in Los Banos, I received this letter:

John, I knew Bill Eagleton well. His two sons worked for me all through high school. I can tell a story about the night he came to my home.

He was on patrol and had just covered a fatality accident. He drove up to my house, and with his loud speaker he said, “Norm, are you home?”

I was half asleep on the chair, in front of the TV. I awoke in an instant and hearing a voice out of the night, I replied, “Yes, Lord, I am here.”

A few seconds later the door bell rang. I came to my senses and answered the door. Bill Eagleton stood there. He explained there had been an accident. A mother dog, a Yorkshire terrier, with three puppies in a basket, had been found at the scene. He asked if I could take care of them.

“Sure,” I replied. So off to the kennel we went with the four dogs. I put them in the puppy pen with a light for heat to keep them warm. Bill thanked me profusely and left.

The next day I was informed that the father of the puppies was also in the accident and had not been found. Later we learned that some people had stopped to help, and the dog jumped in the car when the door was opened, unbeknownst to the people in the car. He was later safely returned.

A few days later the mother and her puppies were picked up by the owner, and a large bouquet of flowers was sent in appreciation.

Thanks again for letting all of your readers know of the passing of Bill Eagleton.

Norm Nelson

Thank you, Norm, for sharing that story. That is the Bill Eagleton I remember: whimsical, professional and caring, the type of guy who would go out of his way to help people (and animals).

I received another e-mail about Bill that explained exactly how he died. I had written that he had died of a heart attack playing softball, a game he enjoyed. But here is a more accurate description:

Dear John,

Thank you for your mention of Bill in your column. There is, however, one correction. He didn’t actually die of a heart attack.

In a game that ended around noon that day, a ball was batted toward him. It hit the ground, bounced up, and hit him hard in the chest before he caught it. The cardiologist believes that it created a small tear in the aorta.

Shortly after that, Bill noticed that his arm hurt. In the game that started about 1 p.m., he asked to be moved from third to second base because his arm hurt so bad he didn’t think he could throw from third to first. He made the comment, “If a ball comes my way, I may have to roll it to you.”

As he was playing second base, a ball was hit to him. The other players say he made a fantastic play — reached for it, threw to first, double play, two outs. Not long after that he collapsed on the field. They thought it was a heart attack. But, when he made that play, he opened up the tear that had been created in his aorta earlier.

He was taken to the hospital. The surgeon said that if they didn’t operate, Bill was going to die, but if they operated right away, there would be a small chance of saving him. The surgery lasted over four hours and was unsuccessful. Basically, he bled to death internally.

That had to be the most horrible day of my life and those four hours the longest hours of my life. As I am sure you know, I miss him. There is a huge hole in my life.

Evelyn Eagleton

Thank you, Evelyn, for clarifying the details on how your beloved husband, Bill, died. It’s clear not only that he died playing the sport he loved, but playing it well. Knowing Bill, I think he has already told several times that story of the amazing double play to St. Peter and to other guys with whom he is reunited in heaven.

I also received several e-mails on the columns I wrote about Ruben Dozal, the Los Banos resident who started attending an adult literacy program when he was 50, discovered he had a love and talent for reading and writing, and later wrote a book that was published.


I just read the story on Ruben Dozal. My compliments to Ruben and anyone else who makes the effort to improve themselves, their family, and their community.

Nello Ferretti


Thank you for including Merced County’s Read and Succeed program in your columns on Ruben Dozal. One of the best things about all adult literacy services and instructional materials is that they are FREE to learners and volunteer tutors.

Pamela Cornelison, Literacy Program Coordinator, Merced County Library

I appreciate, Nello and Pam, your comments on Ruben and the adult literacy program. The Friends of the Los Banos Library are now working on a plan to have an orientation in Los Banos for prospective adult literacy training volunteers. I will be writing more on this orientation in a later column.

On another note: My sympathy goes out to the family of Angelo Casella, who died earlier this month. I have many fond memories of Angelo, a gregarious guy with a silver voice and a hearty laugh.

Angelo, who was devoted to his family, his parish and his community, brightened the days of many people with his cheerfulness.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, a regular Enterprise columnist, are encouraged and can be sent via email to spevak@telis.org.

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