REDDING, Calif.—The Redding community and Simpson University are mourning the loss of an alumnus known for his dedicated service to people experiencing homelessness.
Bill Hartman, who graduated with a bachelor of arts in organizational leadership from the School of Adult Studies degree-completion program in 2018, served as guest services manager at the Good News Rescue Mission in Redding. He was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 on Dec. 18 and passed away on Dec. 23. He was 57.
Friends and family started a Facebook page requesting prayer for Bill when he became ill, with hundreds of comments shared by those who knew and loved him.
“This man had a very humble ministry, helping others,” wrote Tim Crow. “What’s unique about this is that he taught many to help themselves. When the gospel is preached, often we think of a sermon behind a pulpit … some preach through the steps they take and the hearts they touch.”
Tim talked about receiving a hug from Bill the last time he had seen him. “Bill saw me at my worst as well as my best, and both times treated me with respect and Christian love,” he said. “For a child of God, this rock we live on is only but a part of our journey. Bill knew that and lived that daily.”
TV station KRCR shared stories about Bill on-air and online, saying he had “a massive impact on our local community and a huge impact on those who are unhoused.”
Family member Tammy Fuller shared with KRCR: “His words were important, but the example of how much he loved God and was fighting for their recovery. … It’s a huge loss.”
Bill’s own struggles with addiction and recovery helped motivate him to help others, family and friends said. In a video tribute posted on Facebook and shared during chapel at the mission, Bill talked about what the rescue mission meant to him.
“This is the vehicle that God used to save my life,” he said. “When I came in, I was literally walking in circles, talking out loud, hearing voices. … God led me here – I didn’t even know the place existed. Once I walked on the property I felt so much weight released from me.”
As Bill worked through the mission’s recovery program, he felt a pull to get involved. “It came upon me that I wanted to be part of the mission for the rest of my life, whether it was to be a volunteer or employee, or through my old age retire here,” he said. “Since that time I’ve come to know and love the guests. I feel God has me here because I’ve been through a lot of the stuff they have and can relate to them.”
Bill completed his college degree at Simpson University, where others remembered his authenticity, kindness, humor and practicality as he sought to learn additional skills to help in his work.
“He was genuinely open and excited in his approach to his education, gleaning any information he could that would help him be a better mentor and leader to those he served at the mission,” said Ericka Jones, an instructor in the degree-completion program. “He was incredibly passionate about being in recovery and willing to speak into others’ lives in a way that brought so much richness in class.”
Jonathan Anderson, a Simpson University alumnus and executive director of the Good News Rescue Mission, said Bill’s loss hit the mission hard. “It’s devastating and words cannot express the sorrow and grief we feel,” he wrote on Facebook. “We are family here at the mission, and when we lose a member of our family, we feel it deep in our souls. … I’m grateful that one day, I’ll see Bill again in heaven.”
Bill leaves behind two sons and grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are on hold due to the pandemic.
Simpson University, a Christian university founded in 1921, moved to Redding in 1989 and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 20 traditional undergraduate programs, the university has graduated more than 4,000 North State adults from its degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 7-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. The university has a highly ranked Veterans Success Center and partnership with the Army National Guard. Simpson has launched new programs in digital media, computer information systems, and engineering, and recently added athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team ranked No. 1 in California and No. 52 in the nation. Simpson University contributes an estimated $50 million annually to Redding’s economy. It offers aggressive scholarships and is working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements. Learn more about Simpson University at simpsonu.edu.