William L. Ellis of North Tonawanda became an eye donor upon his passing on June 26, 2017.

Known to friends as Bill, he was married to his wife Sharon for nearly 30 years. Bill’s daughter Amanda Borellis mentioned that he loved music and spending time in nature. “His love of the outdoors likely started when he was a Boy Scout as a child,” she said. “He enjoyed camping, hunting and fishing, hiking ­– his favorite place was Yosemite National Park.”   

His musical tastes were eclectic, and included classic rock, experimental rock and blues. Frank Zappa was his favorite musician. In March 2006, Bill won a contest to be a guest DJ on 97 Rock, fulfilling a childhood dream.

Bill spent most of his life in Western New York, graduating from North Tonawanda High School in 1977. He spent several years in southern California, but returned to the area in 1992. In the mid-1990s, he earned his Associates Degree in Business from Niagara County Community College.

He enjoyed watching football, baseball, and hockey. He was also a beer enthusiast and novice home brewer, earning honorable mention in a couple home brewing contests.

In order to help others, Bill frequently donated blood. “When I was a child living in California, I remember him being sure to donate after earthquakes when local need was high,” recalled Amanda. He continued to give blood when he returned to Western New York.

For many years, Bill worked in warehouses. Beginning in 2011, he served as a social worker with the Niagara County Department of Social Services. He continued his work there until becoming seriously ill in December 2013.

Bill had pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which the lungs become scarred and stiff. This prevents the lungs from providing enough oxygen to the blood. In his case and many others, the cause of the condition is unknown. There is no cure. Bill was able to keep working despite the condition for several years, but in December 2013 he was hospitalized for an upper respiratory infection and subsequently became disabled due to complications. He was a potential candidate for a double lung transplant, but the disease became so severe that he passed away on June 26, 2017.

“My father was an inspiring person, though he may not have realized during his life just how inspiring he was to many,” Amanda said. “When he fell ill in 2013 and required multiple blood transfusions, I decided to carry on the legacy of his commitment to donating blood. Before his recent passing, he received a unit of blood and I took comfort knowing that it could have been my own blood he received (we shared the same blood type).”

Bill had been interested in being an organ donor, but chose to give his body to the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in hopes that researchers can learn more about pulmonary fibrosis through his gift. Those who participate in the UB anatomical gift program still have the opportunity to register as eye donors.

“My family and I have taken comfort after his passing knowing how many lives he touched, both personally and through donating,” said Amanda. “To honor his memory, I intend to continue donating blood with Unyts and have already signed up to be an organ donor.”

She added, “As a Boy Scout and avid camper, he lived by the motto ‘Leave it better than you found it,’ and he certainly left the world a better place through the lives he touched.”

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