President’s Letter – Summer 2016

Dear Friends,

Bill and Chris
Bill Backer and Chris Miller speak to guests at the Piedmont Memorial Overlook.

We are mourning the loss of Bill Backer, long-time PEC supporter and Piedmont Foundation President, who passed away on May 13, 2016. An advertising genius who taught the “world to sing” when he created the 1971 “Hilltop” commercial for Coca-Cola—what many consider to be the most famous commercial ever.

Bill loved the Piedmont and chose to make Fauquier County his permanent home in 1994. I’ve known Bill for over 20 years. He was a man of incredible intellect and insight into the human spirit. And he was courageous, passionate, full of laughter and in the constant pursuit of happiness. We were extremely lucky to have him as a leader, supporter and friend over so many years. He truly loved the open land that he chose to live on at Smitten Farm and the surrounding fields and forests. But, more importantly, he loved all of us. He wanted nothing more than to help find that common spark that would help resolve competing interests and unify around the common cause of land.

Working with Bill was energizing and exhausting, requiring great leaps of logic but also careful attention to detail. He could be a tough critic, but he always came back with a suggestion for a better approach. Who else but Bill could conceive and execute a spectacular party to thank Abe Pollin for the Verizon Center as a way of encouraging smart growth, complete with 500 developers and friends, an original one-act musical and a five-course meal at the vast National Building Museum?

He was open to big, new ideas and loved to be around creative people. But he also valued simple things like fried chicken and a perfect hamburger on the porch, while enjoying the view of open land, the breeze and the sounds of birds singing.

Bill taught all of us the importance of maintaining a sense of humor in the face of adversity. He believed that having fun made the hard work worthwhile.

No person loved the open land and all that it provides more than him, and we are dedicated to continuing his work. He will be sorely missed.

Chris Miller, PEC

This letter was featured in our Summer 2016 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.