Chapter 2: THE MAN


According to Mrs. Hendrick, after Ard graduated from Dartmouth in 1944, he began work at the Buchanan Ad Agency in the Paramount Building on Times Square where he met Eileen in the “office pool.”

The two were married in 1945 and lived in Brooklyn Heights. A year later, Bill left Buchanan to take a job as head of the copywriting department at Warner Brothers in New York.

His work included the ad copy for “Going My Way” and “Bus Stop” starring Marilyn Monroe. “If my memory serves me correctly,” Mrs. Hendrick said, “he wrote the copy for ‘Going My Way’ on his own, turned it in to the Ad Department and was promptly promoted from the ‘office pool’ to his own office overlooking Times Square.”

He also wrote a movie review column.

The couple moved to Scarsdale. Their daughter, Eileen was born in 1947.

“He always wanted to be a writer,” Mrs. Hendrick said. “He started writing short stories in college. I don’t know where they are now. But when he started with Warner Brothers, he decided would just write.”

In November, 1950, their son, William Jr., was born. “The day Bill came to the hospital to bring me home was day he found that his first novel, The Perfect Frame was accepted.,” Mrs. Hendrick explained. “It was a red letter day in our lives. We were able to pay the hospital bill with the advance.”

The young writer was on the road to a successful career. He left Warner Brothers to pursue his dream of being a novelist. “We were free to move anywhere,” Mrs. Hendrick said. “Bill didn’t need anything but a typewriter and paper.”

Tired of the wet, cold weather of New York, the family headed south to Clearwater, Florida in 1953. Over the years, the family lived in Clearwater and Largo.

Ard became a member of Sigma Chi, the Carlouel Yacht Club and the Pelican Golf Club, the latter two in Clearwater, Fla.

Did he have aspirations to be “serious” novelist? “I don’t really know,” Mrs. Hendrick said. “He was so busy writing his books that I don’t think he even thought about it.” At the time he died he was just coming into his own. It was really heartbreaking after struggling all those years, for him to die when he was getting recognition.”

Though the couple were extremely close, Bill’s death was a total shock to his wife. “I never knew he had cancer,” she said. “He didn’t tell me. He went to the hospital to have an upper and lower GI series. When I went to see him he said nothing was wrong, that it was just nerves or overwork, and I believed him.

“But,” Mrs. Hendrick continued, “you must understand some background. Bill’s mother had a condition in which it hurt her to eat. So she stopped eating. She was sure she had cancer. Finally they took her to the hospital. She didn’t have cancer. . . .She died of malnutrition.

“So Bill refused to believe he had cancer.”

He died March 12, 1960 at age 37.

“After Bill died, I asked the doctor how it could have happened, why the cancer wasn’t found after all those tests. He said Bill never had the tests done. He just refused to believe he had cancer.”

“Bill was conservative in personality,” she said. “He was reserved yet fun and outgoing among friends. He was, Mrs. Hendrick emphasized, not at all like the characters he created. “Bill wrote what he felt was popular at the time. He himself was in no way ‘hard boiled’. He was a fun loving, gentle man, a devoted husband and father. He was a wonderful, handsome man,” she added, “with a wonderful sense of humor. He was quiet and very romantic. On my birthday and other holidays like Valentine’s Day he would bring me roses. He was a very thoughtful and loving person.”

He was also destined to remain somewhat of a mystery man. Mrs. Hendrick was able to supply only one photograph. Most of the family photos and papers she had saved were destroyed in a flood.

A few years ago, convinced she had no use for them, she threw out advance copies of his books that she had stored for decades.






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