William Henry Gates II, who was popularly known as Bill Gates Sr., breathed his last on September 16 at his beach home in Washington. The 94-year-old was fighting Alzheimer's disease.
Though Bill Gates Sr. is known as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' father, it is a fact that Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wouldn't have been a reality without his help. Condolences have poured in from all corners of the world. He is known to be the guiding force behind Bill Gates' philanthropic work.
"When I am at my best, I know it is because of what I learned from my dad about respecting women, honoring individuality, and guiding children's choices with love and respect," Bill Gates Jr. said, explaining how thankful he is to everything his father has done.
Family, Friends Condole Death of Gates Sr.
"Melinda and I owe him a special debt because his commitment to serving the community and the world helped inspire our own philanthropy. As I've said many times before, my dad was the real Bill Gates. He was all the things I strive to be," said Gates.
"We will miss him, but we will forever catch glimpses of him in the people whose lives are changed by the work our foundation supports—and in the loving moments our family shares," Melinda Gates said.
Extending his condolences, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to Twitter and said that Bill Gates Sr. played an important role in the community. "Bill Gates Sr. is an important part of the Microsoft story; he helped shape our culture, played a vital role in our community, and influenced our philanthropic programs. We send our condolences to the Gates family and gratitude for Bill Sr.'s enduring legacy," he tweeted.
His colleagues and friends also expressed their condolences. "He was truly one of the world's most remarkable people," said Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington. Gates Sr. was a longtime member of the Board of Regents.
"He never backed down from a challenge. You don't back down and you keep optimistic about it and you try to work with the community. Memories of Bill Sr. will help to guide me during these difficult times," said Marty Smith, longtime friend and a former partner at the law firm Preston Gates & Ellis.
His Love For Technology and Community
Born on Nov. 30, 1925, William Henry Gates II was the son of furniture store worker. Both his parents could not attend high school but Gates Sr. was extremely interested in learning. He finished his graduation in 1943 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Japan after the World War II. After returning, he got his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in 1949 and then went on to pursue law from the University of Washington. He later happened to have served as the board member of the University for 15 years, leading fundraising efforts.
Gates Sr. was first drawn towards technology when he had to deal with his legal clients Redmond's Physio-Control Co. He made sure that the company made its best product, heart defibrillators, easily accessible to the public. Since then he devoted his wisdom and time to support Northwest's tech-focused economy.
He is also credited with being one of the three founders of the Washington Research Foundation. Through this he helped research institutions in commercializing their discoveries. His works included helping launch of the Technology Alliance, a tech-centered alternative that led to creating the Alliance of Angels, one of the region's most important angel investment networks.
He became known politically and his campaign for the income-tax initiative in Washington state even earned him rivals as he was pitted against his long-time friends and colleagues. "Poor people and middle-income people are paying too much to support the state and rich people aren't paying enough" he had said. His proposal was that individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and couples earning more than $400,000 could raise $1 billion a year and fund education and health care. Though this initiative was defeated by voters he never gave up and continued to help communities in terms of fundraising and making technology accessible to the public.
He helped launch the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010. Much before this foundation started functioning Gates Sr. is known to have guided Bill and Melinda in their charitable works. The best of Gates Sr. can be seen in his own words during his interview with GeekWire in 2015. "In my view, it is essential that tomorrow's leaders get involved in public service early on. Whether that's volunteering at a food bank, tutoring math students or serving on a local board, contributing to your community is important work — and it happens to be incredibly satisfying," Bill Gates Sr. had said and he lived up to his words.