William G. Lawyer II, a 52-year resident of Rye, N.Y., and champion of environmental causes in Westchester County, passed away in the company of loved ones at his home on March 21, 2023. A beloved father, husband, grandfather, and community member, he was always looking for ways to improve any space he inhabited.
Born on April 5, 1943, in York, Pa., Bill was the son of Katherine (Frei) and Clarence M. Lawyer Jr.
He attended Duke University, graduating with an A.B. in 1965. After college he married his high school sweetheart, Sharon Wilderson, and they left immediately for a two-year Peace Corps posting in the Philippines. After their return, he received an A.M. at Yale University. In the summer of 1969, the Lawyers moved to Rye where he began teaching in the History department of Rye Country Day School.
Mr. Lawyer became director of the Greenburgh Nature Center in 1978 and steered it to significant growth during his 30-year tenure. He loved interacting with visitors both young and old and established many treasured traditions, including Maple Sugaring Weekend. A lifelong environmental advocate, he was involved with the Federated Conservationists of Westchester County, the Environmental Advocates of NY, and the Rye Conservation Commission/Advisory Council, and he often traveled to Albany to lobby in support of these organizations and the Greenburgh Nature Center.
After retiring in 2008, he worked part-time as Assistant Director for Community Relations at Rye Town Park, where he brought his knowledge of environmental issues — assisting with a park tree survey and promoting pollinator gardens — as well as his love for people-centered events, including public art installations, the park concert series, and beach clean-ups. He also wrote many nature-focused columns for The Rye Record.
The Rye Sustainability Committee presented its Leadership Award to Bill Lawyer in 2020.
Outside of his work, Bill volunteered with the Rye Democrats for decades, and with the Rye Presbyterian Church Coming Home program in his later years. He was an avid runner, who loved the Rye Recreation Turkey Trot, and cyclist, who biked to and from the Greenburgh Nature Center.
Some of his greatest pleasures were meeting fellow dog owners on early morning walks in Rye Town Park, traveling with Sharon and family to France, England, and Bethany Beach, listening to and playing music with his guitar, and gatherings with extended family.
Mr. Lawyer was predeceased by his wife of 52 years, Sharon Lawyer, in 2017. He is survived by his brother, Marty Lawyer of Dunedin, Fla.; his sister, Becky Carr (Ron) of Sarasota, Fla.; his sister-in-law, Shelby Ness (Ron); his children Katie Sperling (Matthew), of New York, N.Y., and Liam Lawyer (Kerrie), of Montclair, N.J.; and his treasured grandchildren, Benjamin and Julia Sperling, and Isabelle and Jake Lawyer.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Rye Presbyterian Church on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m.
Donations in Bill Lawyer’s memory may be made to the Friends of Rye Town Park (www.friendsofrtp.org) or the Greenburgh Nature Center (https://greenburghnaturecenter.org/bill-lawyer-memorial/).