Will Farris, 74, died a few days ago, after a lengthy illness and complicated medical procedures, in his home in Rush Creek Canyon, friends and his beloved cats at his bedside. He was best known locally as a freelance reporter/photographer for Plumas News, his beat Feather River Canyon, from the tunnels to the Greenville Y.
He was raised in Pacifica, a coastal town just south of San Francisco, at a time when it was a boy’s dream of trout streams and wild canyons. He rode a paper route on his bike and as a teen worked in a donut shop in the early morning hours. Come of age he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam in 1967 as a medic for the 9th Infantry on the Mekong Delta. He was the one during a firefight whose men called out “doc, doc!” as he dodged bullets to care for the wounded and dying. Thereafter he was known as “doc,” a title he held proudly, wanting to help people to live and not wanting to kill another human being.
He came home and started his life as a lineman for the telephone company and then went back to college. He was restless, not yet feeling the full impact of the war, and became involved in the early 1970’s Marin County scene of “drugs, rock & roll and gurus by the bay.” He became friends with Hoyt Axton, a notable musician of the day. The “wild & crazy days” didn’t last and he went to work for Atari, the early video game company, and he rose in their ranks. He married and had a son, Travis, who he loved dearly, like his brothers Mike and Tom.
The diagnosis PTSD was not yet born but he started to have all its symptoms and demons. He focused on hard work and went to the VA at Fort Miley in SF and found relief and understanding from several doctors. His marriage fell apart and he drifted and eventually found his way to Plumas County and the solitude of Rush Creek Canyon.
How will people who knew Will remember him? Ornery and lovable come to mind. Intelligent and compassionate. He found wisdom in the Bible, which over the course of his life he read many times, but didn’t preach his values or need the fellowship of a church. A local Hispanic family adopted him, and he adopted them. At a 50 year reunion of his outfit in Vietnam, his men awarded him a sabre for his service.
What I will remember most is the courage he showed in living, and dying. He was a good man, not without faults or shortcomings, like us all, but a good man with love in his heart. My wife and I will miss him.