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Epilogue | William Geer

William Geer's scrapbooks inspired his family and many others

PALM HARBOR — It took William Geer six and nine months to assemble each of the scrapbooks that documented his world. Though a single volume required stacks of newspapers and old magazines, rulers, tape and scissors, Mr. Geer required only two tables to hold all of it.

He compiled scrapbooks about whatever inspired him. He produced a 4-inch-thick book about the space program. There are many more about college football teams, including the glory years of Florida, Florida State and the University of Oklahoma. The former Marine also cobbled together a book about Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Iwo Jima and the turning point of World War II.

He made copies for family members and others, such as Steve Spurrier in 1997 after the Gators' championship season.

"Everyone comments on the thoroughness and the organization you put into it," Spurrier promptly replied in a note Mr. Geer saved.

A book about Army's football heyday in the 1940s and 1950s currently resides in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Mr. Geer — also known as "Mr. Scrapbook" — who produced about 50 volumes chronicling sports, the military and his own family, died April 20 of Parkinson's disease. He was 72.

He made his first scrapbook in the late 1970s, a nine-volume college football set. He visited bookstores and antique shops looking for 50-year-old newspapers and magazines, and paid thousands of dollars for artifacts. Once, he bought a man's entire collection of the New York Daily News.

"He probably didn't need 98 percent of the stuff he purchased," said his son, Matthew Geer, 42.

He paid a secretary at Honeywell, where he worked as a programs and purchasing manager, to moonlight retyping many stories. He resized stories so they would fit within his meticulous margins, and used a Largo print shop so often employees regarded him as one of their own.

"He used to come in here all the time," said Jason Conrad of Color Pages Printing. "He would actually come in and work on the printers himself."

He refused to sell his work, and rejected offers to build scrapbooks for others.

"I'm not sure he ever did one that he was asked to do," said his brother, Bruce Geer, 63. But he gave away his work freely. He created one about the Buccaneers — When the Bucs Were Bad — and sent a copy to former general manager Rich McKay, who replied with thanks.

"I asked him on a number of occasions why he did it," brother Curtis Geer said, "and his stock answer was, 'This is what I do.' "

Mr. Geer was born in Johns­town, Pa., and moved to Clearwater with his family in 1954. He was a member of a Clearwater High basketball team that reached the state finals (he made a scrapbook about that, too). He spent 52 months with the Marines and left as a sergeant. He got a master's degree on the GI bill and landed at Honeywell in 1975.

His mother's death in September 1994 prompted Mr. Geer to embark on a new mission: a scrapbook documenting his family, starting with its known origins in the 1600s. He covered events large and small, from marriages to divorces (including his own after 25 years) to Little League games to surgeries, adding his own commentary. Family members consider it his masterwork.

"Any major event in the Geer history is included in there, both our triumphs and our tragedies," his son said. "This is life. People are going to get sick and die."

In 1978, Mr. Geer's 5-year-old son, Michael, died in an accident at a friend's house. He documented the event. Mr. Geer distributed updated copies of the book to family members each Christmas Eve.

Complications from Parkinson's disease hampered Mr. Geer's ability to produce the books in recent years. In one of the family updates, he included a photo of himself dancing and wrote a self-mocking caption: "Doin' the Parkinson's Shuffle."

In October 2009 he produced his last scrapbook, a relatively thin volume on the military career of a friend's husband.

"There were many more projects in his mind that his body couldn't get to," his son said.

Mr. Geer died at home April 20. He had designed his own headstone, a memorial bench at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens. In chiseled granite, it reads, "Mr. Scrapbook, William Campbell Geer."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

. BIOGRAPHY

William 'Bill' Campbell Geer

Born: April 16, 1939.

Died: April 20, 2011.

Survivors: Son Matthew; daughter Suzanne Pearce; brothers Curtis, Bruce and Byron; sister Annette Motley; and two grandchildren.

William Geer's scrapbooks inspired his family and many others 04/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 30, 2011 7:40pm]
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