William James Mehigan Jr.
William James Mehigan Jr. of Schenectady, NY, a gifted artist and metalworker, a loving father, a larger-than-life presence and a good man, died Thursday, August 23, 2018. He was 76.
William Mehigan was born October 12, 1941, in Saratoga Springs, New York, to Agnes (nee Granger) and William Mehigan Sr. He enjoyed an active childhood outdoors, and at age 10 appeared in the newspaper when he and two friends caught a 27.5-inch trout, barehanded, in Geyser Creek. He enjoyed skiing, weightlifting, and boxing, and developed an interest in cars. From 1958 to 1960, he was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves. As a young man, Bill grew to be six and a half feet tall and had the looks of a matinee idol. Despite his build and popularity, and an early penchant for drinking and brawling, he eventually gravitated toward artistic pursuits, to which he devoted serious study independently and in high school. For three years he was a member of Saratoga High School’s Art Club, and its president in his junior year. His art teacher urged him to continue his studies at Rhode Island School of Design, but his father, despite taking him to Bolton Landing to meet the sculptor David Smith, advised Bill to learn a trade. After graduation in 1960, he entered the U.S. Navy full time.
As a builder with the Seabees’ Mobile Construction Battalions 4 and 7 from 1960 to 1964, Bill spent time in California, Rhode Island, and Florida, and traveled to Scotland, Spain, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, where he was among those who defended Guantanamo Bay Naval Base during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In his Navy years, he worked building a dry dock for Polaris submarines, a radio communications tower, and military fortifications and housing.
Returning to Saratoga in 1964, on the day of his discharge Bill met his future wife, Lisa (nee Smith), a Skidmore student, at the Colonial Inn in Saratoga. Three years later, the two married and settled in Johnstown, and in 1969 Lisa gave birth to their son, Joshua. To support his family, Bill began work as a master welder at Atlantic Cement (now Lafarge), in Ravena, NY, where he commuted daily for 32 years. He found time, nevertheless, to serve as a coach for his son’s and nephews’ Little League baseball and YMCA basketball teams. He also used his technical know-how for the entertainment of his son and other neighborhood kids, making toys, costumes, a treehouse, and an igloo featured in the local paper.
Bill was a gifted and technically sophisticated visual artist, working in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture, and in an eclectic range of modes, from abstraction to photorealism. When Bill was in his 20s, his work was included in exhibits at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Museum in Utica and the University Art Museum at SUNY Albany, among other venues. He continued periodically making art for himself and his family into his 60s.
Bill loved classic cars, and over the years enjoyed many outings in his 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, 1983 DeLorean DMC-12, and 1950 MGTD, which he rebuilt in his spare time. He was active in the Capital Region MG Car Club and won several prizes at car shows for his beloved cherry-red TD.
Bill had a sharp, profane sense of humor and always remained wide-awake to life’s ironies. He was known among loved-ones for his hard-won, exceptionally interesting repertory of stories. Once, working in the kitchen at Spa City Diner, Bill switched on the commercial potato peeler before a smoke break, then forgot about it, and returned to find a bin full of marble-sized potatoes. There was also the time when, hitchhiking, he climbed into the car of a nice family who stopped for him, and was cautiously informed that the car had only stopped for a traffic light. And there was the time, in what is now Eritrea, that he and two fellow sailors struck a deal with some local merchants to trade a bag of crushed ice, which the merchants had never seen, for a baboon, which the sailors had never seen, and the ice melted, and the baboon tore the interior of the Navy truck to shreds. Bill passed along his love of stories and storytelling to his son and nephews.
William Mehigan is survived by his former wife and lifelong best friend, Lisa Mehigan of Saratoga Springs; his son, Joshua Mehigan and daughter-in-law, Talia Neffson, of Brooklyn; and many dear friends and extended and unofficial family. He was predeceased by his sister, Nancy Maurstad.
After an extended visit with Lisa, the love of his life, William J. Mehigan Jr., died peacefully at Schenectady Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing. The precise cause of death is not known. He requested that there be no funeral. Donations can be made in his name to the Seabee Memorial Scholarship Association, (P.O. Box 391, Springfield, VA 22150) or Saratoga Performing Arts Center, (108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.)
Arrangements under the direction of the William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes of 628 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs (518-584-5373).
Online remembrances may be made at www.burkefuneralhome.com.