Millet, William (Bill)

William "Bill" Edwin Millet

July 4, 1955 - November 11, 2020

William Edwin Millet, accomplished and colorful filmmaker, producer, musician, storyteller, historian and promoter passed from this life to his eternal home on Wednesday, November 11, at 12:13 pm from complications stemming from a gastrointestinal disorder and compromised health conditions as a 3 time cancer survivor.

Bill was born on July 4th, 1955 at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas and was residing in his lakeside home in Rowlett, Texas at the time of his death.  He is a father of two, a brother to five, and a beloved family member and friend to hundreds of others. 

In 1960, Bill moved to San Jose, Costa Rica at the age of 5 with his missionary parents. A year later he moved to Huehuetenango, Guatemala where he attended Huehue Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids along with brothers Jeff and Greg for 4 years. It was there that his musical seeds were planted  through trumpet lessons, bongo drums and the influence of The Beatles music - sung a capella by fellow missionary kids who had heard it while on furlough in Canada as no recordings or radios were available at Huehue.  

Later, Bill moved to Puebla, Mexico where he attended Puebla Christian School while his parents worked at Central American Mission’s Ediciones Las Americas printing and publishing house. It was during these years that he learned the Spanish language he was fluent in by roaming the streets with his friends, absorbing the Latin culture and heritage that would greatly influence his later life’s work. It was also during that time that he cajoled his parents into buying him a classical guitar from a little shop in an artisan’s market in Mexico City - an event that would define his future.  

In 1969 he moved to Siloam Springs, Arkansas to attend the 9th Grade and lived with his grandparents Ed and Grace Ettinger while his parents finished their last year as missionaries in Puebla. There he befriended the son of the town’s music store owner, gaining himself access to a wealth of popular music and musical instruments, especially electric guitars. It was at this time that he made the first crude musical recordings that would mark the beginning of a lifetime of refined music and film work to follow.

In 1970, he returned to Dallas, Texas to attend Hillcrest High School where he formed the first of many bands that he would eventually become a member of.  At first, it was all rock and roll and electric guitars. During his senior year in high school his interests shifted to Bluegrass and Country. He took up the banjo and was accepted into DISD’s Skyline Music Program for students with exceptional musical talent.  After graduating he studied music at Richland College and played in local bands, eventually joining the Silver Moon Bluegrass Band formed by his cousin Martin Massinger that played local venues and festivals.

During this period Bill really excelled at the banjo, even winning titles at some festivals and contests.  It was at one of these festivals around 1976 when he was offered a job as the banjo player with The Bluegrass Alliance, a leading band from Louisville, Kentucky in the heart of Bluegrass music country. While with that band, Bill hired a young guitar playing vocalist named Vince Gill, who would later rise to stardom.

In the early 1980’s, Bill moved to Denver, Colorado to join the up and coming band Monroe Doctrine and began touring and recording around the U.S.  In the mid 80’s, after tiring of the rigors of constant touring, Bill quit the band and returned to Dallas to focus on a healthier lifestyle and reimagine his career path. Musical forays into R&B, pop and Christian music followed along with him trying his hand at studio work producing albums for artists such as Mark O’Connor, Bonnie Raitt and others. He also toured the Middle East with the Mark O’Connor band on a U.S. State Department Cultural Exchange Tour where they played a command performance for King Hussein of Jordan.

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, Bill’s career interests shifted from performance to production and promotion. During that time period he directed, produced and promoted a number of music festivals and concerts for acts such as Blood, Sweat and Tears, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Ringo Starr, Ray Charles, George Strait, Linda Ronstadt, Lee Greenwood, Benny Goodman and many others. In the late 90’s he orchestrated and produced a duets album for country music icon Hank Thompson featuring Vince Gill, Junior Brown, Marty Stuart, Brooks & Dunn, George Jones, Lyle Lovett, Kitty Wells, Tanya Tucker and others.

He also produced a number of special events where his Latin roots came to bear such as a Latin Music Festival featuring Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, Tejano Music Festivals featuring Selena, Los Bukis, Vicente Fernandez, Linda Ronstadt, and even a Texas Stadium concert by Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine. As the new millennium approached, Bill produced a praise album and video titled The Greatest Story Ever Sung featuring Christian artists Kathy Lee Gifford, Micheal W. Smith, Michael Crawford, and others.

As a child Bill had a great interest in cars and auto racing. In his teen years he had refurbished an old Triumph TR3 his uncle Dan gave him, and in the early 2000’s he parlayed that interest into an auto racing marketing project for legendary race car driver and auto designer Carroll Shelby’s line of automotive products which included sponsorship of an Indy Car Racing Team

As the decade progressed, Bill’s interests evolved further, adding film making to his resume of talents and abilities. He married his wife Maria while living in Dallas, and soon after moved to San Antonio where he became involved with historians such as Dr. Felix Almaraz, and officials from organizations such as the Daughters of the Texas Republic, musician and Alamo historian Phil Collins, the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross University, the City of Ágreda, Spain, the state of Puebla, Centro INAH Coahuila, Gerrero, Mexico, Archivo General de Mexico, Fundación Carlos Slim and Los Bexareños Genealogical & Historical Society.   

Bill’s other documentary film projects included Texas Music Extravaganza, featuring Raul Malo, the San Antonio sounds of Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers, The Vato Valley Boys, Dan Crary, Adam Aguilar and others. This program was a PBS hit and raised almost $50k for the station. 

In 2018, Bill produced 10 weeks of programming for the City of San Antonio Tricentennial that aired on Univision Television Network and earned him two Texas Emmy Award nominations for Excellence and Best Director. The film Texas Before the Alamo, which was Bill’s passion for eight years, is the story of the Spanish who established Texas in the centuries that preceded the Battle of the Alamo. His dream was for these films to be shown and taught in Texas schools. 

He was also involved in cooperative resolutions signed between historians in Mexico, Spain and Texas seeking to improve relations between the nations that were recognized in a ceremony of the Texas State Senate

El Camino, was a film about the Texas Mexico Olive Trail and promoted the olive oil industry of Texas. His last projects in the making were The Star Film Ranch a film about the ranch where classic cowboy western movies were first made and John Wayne, His Life and Legend, the tale of the making of the first Alamo movie. Bill was also organizing a series of concerts and videos featuring the Baroque music of Houston Symphony Orchestra First Chair Louis-Marie Fardet and guitarist Manuel Mejía Armijo and the upcoming Nouvelle Antigua.

Bill was a very busy man who leaves a legacy of creativity and friendship behind.  He brought numerous people together in his lifetime to work on a wide range of projects dedicated to music, the arts, and history. His passion was to tell the full story of Texas and Mexico history, and foster an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation based on our shared history, culture, arts, and music.  

Most of all Bill loved his family - especially his children Billy and Eden who were the light of his life. He loved his brothers and their families. There was nothing he loved better than gathering a large group of family and friends together for a celebratory fiesta or a lively jam session. He never met a stranger and would talk the ear off anyone who would listen. 

He was a health nut - always concerned with his diet and exercise. A nature lover and adventurer who was always up for taking the road less traveled. A professional with boundless energy and a tireless enthusiasm for his projects.  This is Bill’s legacy. What made him tick and drove him to work at the frenzied pace he often did.  He was gifted, passionate, and talented. And he will be missed greatly by a great many people with whom he worked, played and loved.

Bill is preceded in passing by his mother Joyce Millet and his younger brother Greg Millet. He is survived by his wife Maria Cordoneda-Millet; his son Billy and wife Atisha Millet, his daughter Eden and husband Ryan O’Malley and their mother Christie Neal; his father William E. Millet, Sr. and step-mother Loetta Millet; his four brothers Jeff, Brian, Chris and Jon Millet; and somewhere around a hundred or so relatives he loved dearly from the Millet and Ettinger branches of his family tree. 

And finally, Bill had faith in God that assured him that he would be reunited with his loved ones who had gone before him.  Heaven’s chorus has a brand new band member.  And both his, and his family’s faith in God assures us that we will hear him play again someday.

Until then, rest in peace, ‘mano Memo.

A Memorial Service will be held at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, November 21, 2020 at Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Home Chapel, 2525 Central Expressway North, Allen, Texas 75013. 

The Chapel Service is limited to 100 guests, but will be streamed LIVE for those not able to attend, or for overflow guests to watch in their cars then visit family after the service. 

To connect, go to: CelebrationOfLife.TV

A Committal Inurnment Service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Saturday, November 21, 2020 at Preston Bend Cemetery at Glen Eden on Lake Texoma, 29141 Preston Been Road, Pottsboro, TX 75076.

All are invited to caravan to this service and join us for Dinner afterwards at Napoli's Restaurant, 13015 N, TX-289, Pottsboro, TX 75076.

(903) 786-2383 livestream for service

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I have always been inspired by my oldest brother, especially as a fellow artist. It was not necessarily his many accomplishments that caught my attention, but just simply for who he was. He always looked after me as his youngest brother and had a very tender heart towards all my children especially the ones with special needs. He was always concerned for their well being and made special efforts to reach out to them and connect with them all on a personal level, even my son who cannot speak. To me, that always defined his true and best character. His film career was defined by telling the untold story and lifting up the silent and unheard voices. Thank you Bill for your sensitivity to the silence. Your life, music and films added vitality to others lives. We love you and miss you. Jon Millet, November 21, 2020 I was always in awe of my cousin Bill Millet. The Lord gifted him with many talents but the one I treasure most was his special gift for music. I believe the Lord gave us music as a special language for our souls. We celebrate and we mourn, we love and we give expression to our deepest passions through this gift. I'll miss having a conversation with him this Thanksgiving but I know his Mom and his brother will have an amazing Thanksgiving with him! What an amazing group of musicians have already gathered. Enjoy the band.... say Hi to Dave for me Bill! (Vince Gill was Bill's bandmate in Bluegrass Alliance in the 70's..... he wrote this piece when he lost his own brother) ANDREA STONEBRAKER, November 20, 2020 From: Martee Billingsley (Daughter of Bill’s former bandmate, Marshall Billingsley of The Bluegrass Alliance.) We are continuing to lift you all up. My dad has shared the obituary and live stream link with his and Bill’s Bluegrass Alliance alumn, including Vince (Gill). I can’t stress to you how much we loved Bill. My dad was an only child who’s dad died when he was 10, somehow your brother who was 10 years younger than my Dad, became a brother. Bill recruited my dad into the The Bluegrass Alliance where he ended up with a band of brothers. Dad still keeps in touch with them all, and has some great memories from those days when they toured together. That’s a gift Bill gave my dad that will last forever. Bill was such a generous soul. He had his faults for sure, LOL... I think I spent the entire millennium chorus project apologizing to people who wanted to talk to him but he was too busy to stop and answer his phone and his voicemail was always full! That’s still true too, I just tried calling him on Tuesday before he passed away to ask him a quick question, it went to voicemail and boom... still full 20 years later ?? As his assistant years ago, he made me nuts... but when work was done we’d drink a glass of wine, I’d get out my guitar and play him whatever I had just written, and he’d give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down, then he’d ask me who I wrote it about, or what the story was behind it. I loved sharing those stories with him! My favorite Bill quote from listening to one of my songs was “Great story! Song’s… ehh... okay”, then he gave a real honest to goodness laugh. Those laughs were the best. I feel like I was lucky because I got to hear the real Bill laugh, not just the polite laugh he gave folks he didn’t want to offend when they aren’t really that funny. There will never be anyone like your brother. He was absolutely one of a kind.
Martee Billingsley, November 20, 2020 I never met anyone like Bill Millet! He was one of a kind. He called me four years ago and asked me to play John Wayne in a docudrama he had been working on, "Texas Before the Alamo.". At that moment I asked myself, "Who is this guy? I can't get a word in edgewise. He's talking a mile a minute!" And yet, the idea of me playing John Wayne struggling to get his dream film project "The Alamo" made, imagination. Like so many, I was roped in! Bill had that effect on many, many people. He made his docudrama and he helped me bring my one man show, "JOHN WAYNE, His life and Legend" to San Antonio. For that, I am extremely grateful to him I will miss him and am sad not to be able to work with him on his many projects. Bill Millet never rested as far as I can tell. He never rusted either. He tried to do so much as if he knew his burning brightly would not last, My heart goes out to his wife, Maria and his entire family. Most sincerely, Jake Thorne Jake Thorne, November 20, 2020 The first encounter between Bill Millet and me occurred on a cold Sunday morning, March 6, 2011, in Alamo Plaza, where re-enactors attired in indescribable costumes as defenders of the mission chapel commingled with performers dressed in elegant military uniforms of the opposing Centralist armies of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. For the first time since commemorative observances had been staged at that historic site, re-enactors portraying conflicting sides of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, prepared to collide that morning. To place that initial meeting between Bill Millet and me in proper perspective, I must flash back three days to the afternoon of Friday, March 4, 2011, and a reception in Austin, Texas. Earlier in the season of winter, I received an invitation from the editorial office of Texas Monthly to speak to an assembly of editors, writers, staffers, and sponsors at an afternoon reception in Austin, on Friday, March 4, on the topic of “Events in Mexican history that culminated in the Battle of the Alamo” at San Antonio de Bexar in Texas. The topic highly interested me, because it coincided with subject matter of which I normally lectured to hundreds of students congregated in one class at the University of Texas at San Antonio. By the time I arrived at a restored mansion in northwest Austin, the guests of Texas Monthly had been celebrating for an hour. When I approached the podium, the guests stopped their conversations to listen to my discourse. Aware of the guests’ tipsy mood, I dispensed with lecture notes and spoke extemporaneously for twenty minutes, constantly gazing at different corners of the large room. Frequently, I articulated an unusual reference that dominated the reception — Ter-quas-qui-centennial — that connoted 175 years since Texas Independence from Mexico in 1836. To my disappointment, when I concluded my discourse, not a single guest asked a question! Possibly they were in such a cheerful mood they did not want to disrupt the ambiance with questions. I thanked them for their undivided attention, and stepped from the podium to converse briefly with the editors. One of them — Mark Silverstein — invited me to submit an article, based on my extemporaneous remarks. Cognizant that Texas Monthly’s magazine writing style differed from historical composition, I later declined the invitation. At twilight, I decided to return home to rest and work the next day on a different discourse for Sunday morning at Alamo Plaza. The temperature on March 6, 2011, dropped slightly below freezing. Well insulated for the event, I parked at The History Shop, then owned jointly by Jim D. Guimarin and Phil Collins, and walked the short distance to Alamo Plaza, where re-enactors attired in a variety of theatrical costumes were practicing defensive tactics for the commemorative battle. An organizer for the Mexican soldiers, an employee of a military toy store at The Menger Hotel, escorted me to the site assigned to General Santa Anna’s offensive units, from where they would attack in the Battle. The event organizers scheduled me to speak from a platform before the clash of arms. Unknown to me, Bill Millet was in the audience that gathered in front of the platform. As soon as I finished answering questions, Bill leaned on the platform to describe his vision for a film project entitled “Texas Before the Alamo.” Having had prior experience in theater art, I listened with thoughtful attention at his explanation. He asked: “Would you be interested in working in this project?” “I definitely would like to learn more about it.” We exchanged business cards, and I returned home to join my bride Dolores at the 11:30 Mass at St. Luke Catholic Church. For three months I did not hear from Bill. Then in early summer, he telephoned me at home. Not having his card before me, I mistakenly believed he had identified himself as Bill Miller, scion of the barbecue restaurants. Politely, he corrected my error: “Bill Millet,” he said. “filmmaker with Texas Before the Alamo.” He then invited me to join him for lunch at a landmark seafood restaurant on Loop 410 East to meet Senator Jesus Maria Ramon, a Harvard University graduate in business and public servant for the State of Coahuila in the Mexican Congress. At that informal luncheon, I became aware that the title for the film had originated with Senator Ramon at his hacienda in northwestern Coahuila, where Bill had interviewed him amid a vast field of olive trees. If there is chemistry among kindred spirits, I discerned it that afternoon among what I later called “the dynamic trio.” How sad now that two of the principal players in that triple alliance have been called to their Eternal Reward. Following my retirement from full-time teaching, I found creative time to collaborate with Bill Millet for a span of eleven years, from 2011 to 2020. During that decade plus one year, Bill assembled a cadre of talented individuals to perform in hallmark scenes in “Texas Before the Alamo.” This group of performers traveled with him in Texas, Mexico, Spain, and France. In alphabetical order to avoid offending anyone, this cast included Daniel Arellano, Mary Jane Blanco (who portrayed Sor Maria de Jesus of Agreda); Dr. Gilbert R. Cruz (of pleasant memory); Prof. J. Ricardo Danel, proprietor of seven Subways; Ambassador Miguel Angel Fernandez Mazarambros (Spain); Dr. Manuel Ramos Medina, director of Condumex Library in Mexico City; Rick Reyes, architect, rancher, and all-round mechanic; and I, Felix D. Almaraz, Jr., Not to be overlooked in the lineup are three major contributors of special merit: Jake Thorne, a John Wayne look-alike, from Mount Airy, North Carolina, who visited Texas to film scenic reenactments from “The Horse Soldiers” in Seguin; and Mrs. Jamie Shahan Rains and her brother, James T. “Tully” Shahan, County Judge of Kinney County (Brackettville), owners of Alamo Village where John Wayne filmed his epic motion picture The Alamo. In the eleven years of associating with Bill Millet in sub-projects that paralleled Texas Before the Alamo, I became conscious of the fact that his enthusiasm for new discoveries in history out-distanced the reality. In his mind he constructed broad outlines of how historical events connected with prior segments. At times he lost patience with me for delving into scholarship I that required old-fashioned methods of documents, tablets, and pencils. “The future of your career as an historian is in multi-media, whereby you can influence millions of viewers instead of a few hundred readers.” “Friend Bill,” I gently replied, “I am very comfortable with a tablet and pencils, because I can envision in my mind how historical actors interfaced with the landscape upon which they worked. Besides, I cannot take an electronic monitor to bed to read.” How a senior professor and a gifted filmmaker learned to work together shall remain an enigma for researchers to unravel in generations to come. Always in happy times, I shall remember Bill Millet, filmmaker extraordinaire. Rest in peace, good friend. Amen. Felix D. Almaraz, Jr., Ph.D., November 20, 2020 Our sincere condolences to Maria, Bill's children, and the rest of the family. I (Andy) feel blessed to have known and worked closely with Bill on a number of projects and initiatives. Through those efforts, I saw first-hand his incredible energy and vision . . . that always ended with high-quality products. He had an unparalleled work ethic that made it very difficult to keep up with him; and it seemed he never slept! I truly value all of my time with him. He had a keen knowledge of history, especially that of Texas and the connections with Mexico and Spain, and he never ceased to amaze me with the depth of this understanding. I will miss his humor and accompanying laugh; our long conversations about history; and most of all, his friendship. It was particularly notable that he was comfortable with all people, regardless of their titles or standings. Bill has left an indelible mark on history itself . . . now an important part of it through his many significant projects. My mother (a DRT member) and sister got to meet him and be around him during several of his initiatives, and wanted me to express their condolences and sense of loss as well. Bill will be greatly missed by many! His rest now is well earned . . . rest in peace my friend! Andy and Mary Cloud, November 20, 2020 I only met Bill a couple of times when he visited our Sunday school class at Lakepointe Church. After reading about the wonderful full life he lived and all that he accomplished and did I wish I could've gotten to know him better. He really did live a full and wonderful life and I am saddened that it was cut short. I look forward to seeing him play his banjo or maybe playing his guitar in a heavenly band when I meet him again in heaven! Bruce Coltharp, November 20, 2020 Jeff, ayant appris la triste nouvelle, je vous adresse mes sincères condoléances ainsi qu'à votre famille. J'ai toujours entretenu d'excellentes relations avec Bill que nous avons rencontré tant à Austin (le 5 mai 2013) qu'à Rochefort (les 1er et 2 novembre 2015). Il était passionné par ce qu'il faisait. Il a travaillé avec notre fils Louis-Marie notre fils violoncelliste lorsqu'il mettait au point son film "Texas Before The Alamo Avec toutes mes amitiés Marc FARDET" Marc Fardet, November 19, 2020 We are very sad to hear of Bill's passing away. We are Louis-Marie Fardet's parents and live in Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France. We met Bill in Texas when we visited Louis-Marie and his family who were then working on the music of Bill's project of "Texas before the Alamo". We were present in Austin at one of the first public screening of the film and my husband Marc delivered then a small lecture on our city where the boat "la Belle" which transported Cavelier de la Salle to America was built. The boat sank during a storm near Matagorda Bay in the Mexico Gulf in 1686. In 2015 Bill came to Rochefort to visit all the places connected with Cavelier de la Salle and was enthusiastic about what he saw. He and two of his frends delivered a lecture on the film and the history of Texas. We had a party in our old XVIIIth century house, which gave him the idea to come back later and film "the last day of Cavelier de la Salle in Rochefort before his departure to America"...Unluckily, he won't be able to do this, but we have been very happy to meet him and we regret that next time we can come to Texas, we won't see him again. So,R.I.P dear Bill, though we are sure you'll have a lot to do up there in the meadows of Heaven!, November 19, 2020 Billy ('Mano Memo to me) and I both belonged to a small, tightly-knit gang of missionary kid in Puebla, México -- a gang which is sorely diminished by his passing. David Hepp, November 17, 2020