“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
–Saint Francis of Assisi
One day he would be sculpting a beautiful piece of furniture from black walnut timber.
Another day he might be spending that extra 10 minutes to style a customer’s haircut exactly to their liking.
And on a certain day in April, Bill Silva would be using his head and his heart as he formulated his strategy at the starting line of the Boston Marathon.
That was the man we all knew – dedicated father, runner, artist. One who was taken from us far too early last week after a brave battle with illness.
Silva touched so many lives with his positive approach to our everyday existence.
The Chalfont resident, born in Puerto Rico in 1944 and raised in New York City, settled in Bucks County in the 1970s. He was quick with a smile and passionate about all his pursuits – be it woodworking, skiing or running with friends.
“He was closely connected with the local arts, and felt it was important to support them,’’ recalled his daughter, Sissy, one of two children Bill had with his wife, Isabel Maria Colom. “He was extremely fond of the Michener Art Museum and donated several W. Smith (artist William Arthur Smith) original pieces to them.
“Dad was always creative and talented. He chose the hairstyling field as a profession at a very young age and had his own salon for many years in Doylestown. It was called Silva Hairworks.’’
Silva dabbled in sketching and painting but his true passion was woodworking.
“It was amazing how detailed dad was about everything he did,’’ Sissy said. “He turned his standard basement into a fully functional, safe and clean woodworking shop complete with a ventilation system.
“He spent many hours down in his shop; I believe this was one of the places he most loved to be. He took great pride in the many pieces he made. He donated a beautiful walnut wood Cross for St. Jude Church in Chalfont, his chosen parish.’’
While Silva was patient and detailed with his artwork, there was a “Top Gun/Need for Speed’’ gene in his DNA as well.
Besides skiing, he drove motorcycles, flew airplanes, rode bicycles and could sprint with the best of them.
As for the Boston Marathon, he ran four of them with that compact, effortless stride.
One of his closest friends, Mike Clarke (also a multiple Boston finisher), recalls numerous fond memories – from an annual trek to the Penn Relays to just shooting the breeze while sitting in the barber chair.
“Bill was a great friend to us all,’’ said Clarke, who met Silva during a run around Lake Galena some 25 years ago. “He always had a smile and sense of enjoyment when you met with him.
“He was a free spirit living life to the max whether skiing, flying his plane, riding his motorcycle or running a marathon.’’
It was Silva’s determination which made him such a good distance runner, perfect for events like Boston.
“We enjoyed countless runs and races together,’’ Clarke said. “He never gave up, never gave in. I am thankful to have known him.’’
Dr. Michael Diorka, a highly accomplished runner going all the way back to his collegiate years, appreciated Silva’s thoughtful attitude about life.
“Bill was more than a friend,’’ Diorka said. “His view of life, church and country was always important to him. Bill was a genuine individual who shared his love for family and beliefs.
“He provided a unique perspective on what was most important regardless of one’s personal view. In his own way, he made me think about being a better person and appreciating those things we often take for granted.’’
Bucks 5K Series director Dick Patterson knows just about every runner in the Doylestown area and Silva might have been one of the most admired.
“He was beloved by our running community,’’ Patterson said. “Bill was a true gentleman, a kind soul, a great woodworker and a wonderful running partner. I will always remember his smiling face — it was a constant.’’
World-class triathlete Nancy Smith remembers when a group of Doylestown area runners would get together for training runs and Silva was among the brightest lights.
“He was always a kind man, and a mentor for runners,’’ Smith said. “He always had a smile and a joke. He loved going out for runs with the group and was fun to be with. That original group has now dispersed but those were fun times as I remember and I will cherish the memories.’’
Bill is survived by his two daughters, Tonya (husband Nahum); Sissy (husband Enrique); grandchildren Robert (wife Alyssa), Christian, Cheyenne and Jeremy; great-grandchildren Lilah, Jackson and Lucas, as well as his siblings Dolores, Ampy (husband Peter), Richard (wife Nellie) and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Bookin’ for Lookin’ 5K, Bucks 5K Series, 9 a.m., Council Rock High School North, Newtown. Contact www.bookinforlookin5k.com