DAVENPORT, Iowa — Tuesday afternoon, The Quad-City Times published a notice about the passing of one of its legends. Bill Wundram, a cherished columnist, passed away at the age of 98. Both Wundram’s coworkers and residents of Quad remember him with affection. He was “as enormous a power as the Mississippi River itself” in their eyes.
Dan Hayes, a former executive editor of the Quad-City Times, remarked, “We have lost a legend, a colossal talent, an irreplaceable treasure, and a close friend to multitudes spanning generations.” We are fortunate to share the same atmosphere as this remarkable individual.
Wundram served as the “voice of Davenport” for more than seven decades. He was born here on December 21, 1924; he was a native of that city. One of his favorite jokes, according to The Times, was that he was born on the shortest day of the year, which explained why he was so small.
He had the advantage he needed to write his daily essays and books since he had grown up in the Quad Cities. The value of family life around kitchen tables, on front porches, and in back alleyways were recurring themes. He served as the 1943 graduating class’s president at Davenport High School. In 2001, he was admitted into the Central High School’s Hall of Honor. His brief stint with the U.S. Army was longer than his time at Augustana College in Rock Island. But according to the Times, “an alluring relationship with the printed word wrecked his academic career.”
At the age of 19, he started working as a reporter for the Davenport Democrat and Leader, which would later change its name to the Quad-City Times. His love of print was based on what is referred to as “soft news,” and his curiosity made him successful in the medium. And just 35 years after he started, the legend finally found his voice as a daily columnist, which was unheard of in the world of journalism in 1979.
Of course, his daily prose adapted to the world around him. In recent years, the self-proclaimed “grandpa” of the news staff would have five columns a week, all appearing on Page A2 of the Times.
The Times celebrates his romance with his wife of 70 years, Helen Voorhees. Their romance? He slipped down a fireman’s pole that had just been waxed, breaking his left leg and wrenching his right kneecap. But it brought him to the red-haired nurse who, on November 30, 1952, would adopt his name.
Tim, Rebecca, and Peter were the three children born into the marriage. At the age of 36, Peter passed away in 1998.
There have been numerous tributes to Wundram’s career, including the unofficial naming of “Wundram Way” in 2004 for a block of LeClaire Street west of the Times. A pocket park bearing his name was also established in 2010 near East 4th and Iowa Streets.
A bronze statue of the legend stands outside his former place of passion, Bix Plaza. This honor recognizes his involvement in the development of the Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race.