William John "Bill" Rice, age 80, of McFarland, passed away peacefully on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at Fountainhead Homes. Bill was born on Sept. 19, 1940, in Madison, the son of Gerald and Rachel (Joyce) Rice.
Bill grew up in Sextonville, attending Ithaca High School as a multi-sport athlete. After graduating in 1958, he attended UW-Platteville, receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Social Science in 1962. He married his college sweetheart, Elizabeth "Becky" McDermott, on Oct. 13, 1962, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. The two of them raised an incredible family and enjoyed their strong marriage of 58 years through the time of his passing.
Bill was a life-long educator, beginning his successful teaching career at Royal High School from 1962-1965 and Mineral Point High School from 1965-1967, before moving to McFarland where he was an integral member of the teaching staff for 31 years and a valued member of the community. A key to Bill's success was his belief in building strong relationships with all students, faculty, and administration. In addition to teaching, Bill served as the Head Football Coach at McFarland from 1967-1998 and has coached other sports including wrestling and track. He also served as McFarland's Athletic Director from 1969 to 1974. Bill's involvement in coaching and advocating for student athletes went beyond the field as he served as the President of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) from 1989 to 1994. As a Head Football Coach at McFarland, Bill was the architect of a program that won six conference championships and earned multiple state playoff berths while maintaining a culture of developing student-athletes to be great people and not just great athletes. Although not important to him, Bill achieved many individual accolades, including coaching in the All-Star Shrine game as an assistant in 1982 and then as the Head Coach in 1998. Bill was also enshrined in the WFCA Hall of Fame in 1998. Bill was respected by his players and the community. In 2016, he was honored by the McFarland community when they named the field at the stadium after him. A humble man, Bill was especially thankful to all of the McFarland students, athletes, coaches, and colleagues that made those years so rewarding.
Although Bill will always be remembered as a great teacher and coach, his most cherished role was being a great family man. He was, at his core, a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather. As a husband, Bill stood side by side with Becky for 58 years, from Wilton to Mineral Point to Madison and finally to 5215 Cook Street, McFarland - it was always "Bill and Becky" - "Becky and Bill" facing the joys and challenges of life together. As a Father - Bill was always there for his boys, cheering for them during various sporting events, demonstrating his tireless work ethic on numerous painting jobs, appreciating the outdoors while hunting "up home" in the hills of Richland County, displaying his stoic courage as a kidney donor for Jeff, or golfing at his favorite course in Evansville - Bill was the best father four boys could ever ask for and he only got better with age. As a Grandfather - "Papa" was the epitome of "unconditional love" for each of his grandkids. Molly, Mandy, Morgan, Jacob, and Joey all have great memories of Papa's laugh, his gentle touch, and his willingness to be completely involved in whatever adventure they were on. This made him a one-of-a-kind source of love and support. No matter how far the game or how cold the venue, Papa was there.
Bill is survived by his loving wife, Becky; four sons, Patrick (Deanna) Rice, their children, Molly, Mandy, and Morgan; Todd Rice; Scott (Sandy) Rice, their children, Jacob and Joey; and Jeffrey Rice; nine brothers and sisters, Diane Anderson, Donna Holz, Thomas (Beverly) Rice, Michael Rice, Patrick (Carole) Rice, Jerome (Jan) Rice, Mary (Steve) Dana, Daniel (Sandy) Rice, and John (Rita) Rice; brothers-in-law, Tom Mooney and Robert (fiancée, Judy Ryan) McDermott; sister-in-law, Helen Rice; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Richard Rice; sisters, Maureen Mooney and Theresa Rice; brothers-in-law, Alfred Anderson and Howard Holz; and sisters-in-law, Sharlene Rice and Judy McDermott.
The Rice Family would like to extend a special thank you to the care team at Fountainhead Homes and Heartland Hospice for their kind heartedness, comfort, and support for Bill and the family.
A private Mass of Christian Burial was held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 5101 Schofield St., Monona, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, with Father Chad Droessler presiding. Family and friends who wish to view the recorded service may visit Bill's obituary page at www.gundersonfh.com and click on the Live Webcast link. Private burial was held at Roselawn Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Alzheimer's Association or UW Renal Transplant Program. Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.
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