Featuring: Bill Higley (Posthumously)
Storyteller, Pantomime Extraordinaire, Friend
Bill Higley gained the status of “Treasured Teller” for the Weber State University Storytelling Festival and was a recipient of the Karen J. Ashton Award for his service with storytelling. Being a Treasured Teller has only been given to a handful of people in the almost-25-year history of this festival. After seeing him perform, you would have no doubt. Part of the “perk” of being “Treasured Teller” was that he was invited every year to perform without needing to take part in the annual auditions. Yet, year after year, when I helped to run those auditions, he would sign up for a spot anyways. None of us completed judging ballots, though we sat back and enjoyed what made him so great. His specialty was in pantomime with one of his most famous pieces being “David and Goliath.” When I heard of his passing, it felt as if the earth rumbled when Goliath fell. That was July 15, 2014. He was 74 years old. I cherished all the memories and all the people he inspired.
I loved being in the front row for any performance that he did. Nothing can compare to how he stretched his face or had his hands move just so. He created fantastic butterflies with a flit of a his hand or how he moved his feet to make me feel like he–and I–were high above in the sky.
Besides his pantomiming, one of his other signature tales that comes to mind would be “Clay Boy” that you can find as a picture book. This crazy boy made of clay–of course–kept growing bigger and bigger. The way he puffed his cheeks while telling the story made me laugh every time.
He mentored many youth tellers including some of our top youth with the Weber State University Storytelling Festival. He was the perfect one to guide for anything to do with body language and gestures or even specifically with pantomime itself.
He often volunteered at the library in Ogden and told stories galore. That alone would mean his impact would be in the thousands. Some people bring up his love for films. While teaching at Weber High School, he developed a club consisting of “Film Appreciation” students. He was always drawn to the classics and always preferred the original pieces rather than any kind of remake.
I wished I lived closer to Ogden so I could have experienced Bill’s performances more. He did many ParticiPlays at the Treehouse Museum, which is known for families to “step into a story” through hands-on displays and toys as well as the regular storytelling performances. When it came Christmas time, he often portrayed Santa there. However, some kids knew his voice so well at the library from his storytimes that many parents had to have ready-and-quick answers if there was any doubt with whose lap they sat upon.
Bill was as jolly as Santa, and someone we will love always.
Do you know a Story Artist who has passed on and want others to remember them? Memories? Pictures? You can submit names and memories of Story Artists who have passed on through our online form.
I appreciate Bill for the influence of yesterday, today, and forever in storytelling and his way of being youthful and wise at the same time. Thank you, Bill.
Bill still has a story. You have a story. We all have stories.