Bill loved donating any money he had to SABO and helping with dishwashing, singing and sharing his joy for living.
He was quite the interesting character so I wanted to share some background on him, especially for any interested students and to expand people’s understanding and appreciation of mental illness.
Bill, William Kenneth Ogren, was born April 6, 1950 in Washington D.C. to proud parents Marjorie and Ken Ogren. Bill, and his two younger siblings James and Jan grew up in Northern Virginia. His father worked as an agricultural diplomat and the family moved to Paris, France in 1967. Bill graduated from the American School of Paris in 1969. While in France he explored The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and worked a summer at Heathrow airport in London, England. He loved art and became friends with artists and enjoyed showing people around museums.
Both of Bill’s parents grew up on farms in Minnesota and so he chose Augsburg College to be near his beloved grandmother Emma Ogren. He went to Augsburg College in MPLS from 1969 to 1973. He was so well-spoken and well-liked that family and friends thought he might become a diplomat, like his father, or maybe a curator of a museum or art gallery.
But in 1972 his life radically changed. It became apparent that he had some kind of illness that changed his brain function. He couldn’t communicate or process information they way he used to. He was homeless for a while and lost contact with family. Nevertheless, Bill managed to come through this time with a focus on being kind, generous, and helpful. He rarely used a phone, no longer drove a car, and never used a computer in his life. But he could wash dishes, set up tables for banquets, and make people happy. He worked at restaurants and hotels, often receiving recognition as Employee of the Month and in 1977, Employee of the Year for the Registry Hotel in MPLS.
He reconnected with Augsburg College and was active in the campus ministry and the campus kitchen. He delivered meals with a song and enthusiasm. He loved getting to know visiting students and could remember everyone’s name and something significant about them.
When his mind no longer functioned as it used to, he opened his heart.
He died peacefully in his sleep on March 10, 2021 just shy of his 71rst birthday.