“He fought to the very end.”
Those are the words that linger on Yolanda Orr’s lips as she thinks of the strength of her husband. “He wasn’t only my husband, but my very best friend,” she said as she is missing him.
Bill Orr, passed away Sunday night in Oklahoma City from complications of pneumonia.
He was a former school teacher who taught many in Durant who are now adults with children and grandchildren of their own.
He will always be “Mr. Orr” to many of his students, while others called him “Bill.”
He and his wife, his soul mate Yolanda, celebrated 16 years together.
She was shocked to lose him so suddenly when it looked like he was getting just a little better each day.
She said, “It came so fast and so sudden. They were getting ready to take him off the oxygen today. They started the process of getting his kidneys going. It was looking great.”
Bill Orr was a fighter and wanted to get his health back because he was a man of the people and he wanted to help however he could.
He was city councilman and wanted his contribution to make Durant a better place to live.
He was tag agent and was usually seen at the tag office visiting with those who came in for business, or to just say hi.
On October 16, 1944, Billy Orr was born in Kansas to Mr. And Mrs. Bill Orr.
His father meant so much to him and was the original Bill, according to Yolanda Orr.
He moved to Durant to be with his father and attend Southeastern, she said.
“Billy” was how many knew him around Durant, if they knew him when he was younger.
Being Kansan, Orr eventually made it to the southwest, graduating in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
“His Dad played basketball and graduated from Southeastern,” Yolanda Orr said.
Orr was full of life and loved being the captain of his own boat on Lake Texoma.
He loved the family and friends cookout on his boat house dock on the lake.
He’d invite friends to have a steak and visit.
Since the floods a couple of years ago, Orr’s boat hasn’t been in the water.
He said recently to this reporter that he wanted to “get back out there someday.”
Yolanda said about Bill, “He didn’t start getting sick and having problems until last year. He had the first aneurysm surgery last March. It took a few months for him to recover. Bill’s roughest point was last September. That was the one that he never bounced back from.”
Orr was a talker and was known for his wit and wisdom.
He reminded many of Will Rogers, always offering a joke or knowledge.
Like a celebrity, Orr would speak to all his friends, and if they weren’t, just like Rogers, “He never met a man he didn’t like.”
Yolanda said, “We’d go to Walmart and people would stop and visit with him. I’d go finish my shopping, come back and he’d still be standing in the same place, talking to a totally different group of people. If someone talked to him, he’d stop to say hello and he’d shake their hand. Whether he could remember who they were or not, they spoke, he greeted them.”
Orr has two sons, Casey of Tennessee and Matt from the area and he has three stepdaughters, Brandy, Holly and Jennifer.
The girls spent large portions of their life with Bill as family.
Jennifer Taylor said, “”He was always cracking jokes and it varied everyday.”
“Bill had a dry sense of humor that some people got, and some people didn’t,” his wife said.
Taylor watched as her step dad fought his illness.
He was getting other things worked on when he contracted pneumonia.
She said, “His first health problem was in 2004. This set of issues started at the end of 2015. That’s when we first started figuring out there was stuff going on. That’s when he went in for his first surgery.”
Teaching was what Orr loved most in life.
Taylor said, “Bill never got tired of teaching. I love that when I was older, I’d watch movies with historical value, I liked watching them with him. He’d throw in extra tidbits,(of information) because he knew. He taught for so long. He and I spent 6 hours getting through the Abe Lincoln movie because we’d pause it and talk about it.”
Bill being so well known and loved, many are shocked at the news of his death.
With Orr in Oklahoma City, it’s been rough on his wife with those miles, the care, and now, his death.
She said she hasn’t been receiving too many phone calls during this tough time, “Most people are texting, so it’s not bad.”
Orr helped so many, in so many different ways.
He had a lifetime connection with his former students.
Taylor said, “He was always helping. He’d do that all the time. If someone needed help, he’d do anything he could for them.”
Orr decided to run for city council out of a desire to help others.
Yolanda Orr said, “He wanted to give back to people because they had been so good to him through the years. First as a school teacher then as Bryan County Tag Agent. He had a talent with people that is very rare to have. “
He’s only been gone a few hours but Orr is greatly missed.
Yolanda said, “He passed a little after 9 o’clock Sunday night.”
Bill’s humor will be remembered for a long time in the hearts of those who loved him.
LaNesa Floyd said, “I will miss his smile and humor. Even though he didn’t always feel well, he managed a smile.”
That is how many will remember Bill.
Former student Billy Lawler said, “Bill was a fun guy and excellent educator.”
Chuck Dooley said, “I don’t like it. I don’t like to see friends pass away.”
He always had an easy going way to look at things.
If he didn’t outright smile at you, you could usually see a grin on his face.
Bill was mischievous with stories to tell that would keep you listening for hours.
Morgan Anthony worked for Orr for 12 years, since she was 18 years old.
Her entire adult life has been spent at the Bryan County Tag Office.
She said, “When I started Southeastern was when I started.”
Orr loved to tell jokes and he loved laughter in life.
“I remember all his jokes, and hearing them over and over again. I have them memorized. Everybody always talked about how he was their favorite teacher, and they loved his class,” Morgan said.
The tag office on Evergreen is officially closed.
A new tag agent is chosen after applications are turned in.
“Someone has to apply for the position now,” said Morgan.
The loss of her boss also means the loss of her job.
She will always remember her friend and boss.
Bill Orr affected many lives in his 72 years.
As councilman, Orr had a vote in the hiring process of Tim Rundel, Durant City Manager.
Rundel said, ” I truly am heartbroken about the passing of Councilman Orr. His deep love for this community and its citizens was shown at every council meeting. He was able to bring calmness during difficult situations and difficult decisions.”
The City Manager works for the City Council in Durant’s form of government.
Rundel said, “I told his family last week when I visited Bill in the hospital that even if Bill wasn’t my boss … I think he and I would be very good friends. We had an immediate connection.”
Councilman Chad Hitchcock said, “Bill was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. His comedic timing was amazing. He never failed to light up a room and make everyone laugh. Durant lost a great man and a great leader, and someone who always did it with a smile on his face. Bill was truly one of the good guys.”
Former Mayor Stewart Hoffman said, “I was saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. During our service together on the council, I have always enjoyed his laid back manner and his jovial personality. He will be missed in our community. My sincere condolences go out to his family.”
Councilman Destry Hawthorne said, “Bill was a good person who cared about people. His passing is a loss for the community and the council.”
Durant City Attorney Pat Phelps said, “We will miss not only his good judgment, but his wit as well. Bill loved this community and worked hard to make it a better place in which to live.”
Rundel tells a story of both he and Orr discussing: “How after we solved all of Durant’s problems, we were going to solve the rest of the world’s problems, too. I really am going to miss him.”
A steady outpouring of love on social media has all his old students saying, “Mr. Orr was my favorite teacher.”
One student had a recollection of keeping “Mr. Orr talking so that he wouldn’t teach class.”
Bill loved to teach. He was still a teacher long after he left that school for the last time.
Anthony said, “He always supported me if I had any problems. He was always there. He gave me good advice and didn’t want me to worry about anything.”
Bill wanted everyone at ease, like he was.
He wanted to serve the people of Durant as best he could.
He chose the city council as a way to give back.
There will be a city wide memorial to be held later, and is in the planning stages.
Councilwoman Oden Grube said, “I’ve known Bill for years. We worked in the Democratic party together. The world lost a good man.”
Even while he was sick, Orr attended every city function he possibly could.
Mayor of Durant, Jerry Tomlinson said, “Bill was a longtime friend. I knew him as a man of compassion, humor, and wisdom. We visited many hours over the years and he always had a logical and common sense way of communicating along with a great sense of humor. He was witty, and yet had the intelligence of the educator that he was. This family, along with his community and former students will miss him greatly. Linda and I will have Bill and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”
His stepdaughter Jennifer Taylor said, “My first funny memory, I was turning 16, and I was nervous like any kid was, about taking my driving test. He said, ‘Honey, you’re taking the tag agent, there’s not a lot to worry about!”’
A memorial service will be held at the old Durant High School Auditorium at a later date.
It’s a fitting place since he loved all his students.
Everyone in the community can celebrate his life.
Bills absence will be felt for years to come. He was a fixture in Durant that will be missed.
His wife Yolanda said, “He fought til the very end. He was able to open his eyes and look into mine, squeeze my hand to say “I love you.”
Morgan Anthony’s word’s sum up what people feel about Bill Orr: “I love him, and I’m going to miss him.”
Contact Dan Pennington at (580)634-2162 or email@example.com