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In Memoriam

Bill Castro In Memoriam

Once again, and far too often, it is time to inform our industry of another loss in our DSAC family.

Regretfully, far too early we must say our fondest farewell to Bill Castro, who passed away on the morning of June 7, 2015, at 1:17 AM, due to ongoing complications with pneumonia and respiratory problems. My relationship with Bill Castro, unfortunately, only spanned a quarter of a century, but looking back we had some wonderful times that I will always cherish.

Bill was born in Managua, Nicaragua, on August 18, 1938. By the age of nine, in 1948, his family immigrated to the United States, leaving much civil unrest in their homeland, seeking a new and better life in the USA. They eventually settled in San Francisco, where Bill grew up. He graduated from Junipero Serra High School on June 14, 1957.

After a few more years, on October 12, 1963, he enlisted in the Army Airborne. He served in Europe, mostly in France and Germany – spending his time jumping out of aircraft. Strangely enough, I to moved to Europe (to Italy) two months earlier that very same year, as my father was serving in the State Dept. However, our paths never did cross at the time, as I was thirteen and he was serving in the armed forces. He received an honorable discharge on September 30, 1967, and returned home to California and San Francisco.

That same year, he started a trucking business with a friend – fortunately, for the driving school industry, the business was short-lived. His next job was going to work in the driving school industry as an instructor for International School of Driving, owned by Bill Azavedo. He then married “the boss’s daughter,” Yvonne Azevedo. Shortly after that, Hale Gammill, Sr. bought the school in 1968. Bill continued to work in management until around 1970, and then opened his own school, Safestway Way Driving School, in San Francisco. Within a few years, he moved to live in Martinez, and eventually moved his operations to Walnut Creek.

He became a father in 1970, blessed with a son, Billy, and again blessed three years later with a daughter, Eva. Over the years, he literally worked day and night, making Safestway one of the largest schools in California. In 1973, he became a member of DSAC and over the years served in many board positions, most notably serving as President twice. Eventually, his marriage to Yvonne ended, but a short time later, in 1985, he happily married Carol Ann Benson, the love of his life. This doubled his family to four children, which Bill fully embraced, creating a united family from two broken families.

Eventually from this family grew the children’s families and Bill and Carol became loving grandparents many times over. Bill’s accomplishments impacted many people. Most were not even aware of them and how they ultimately affected their lives. He created a stable and secure environment for his entire family, offering them so much more than he ever had.

Moreover, what he did for our industry was transformational. As President of DSAC, he worked tirelessly, proposing and fighting for legislation that improved our industry and overall traffic safety. He would walk the halls of the Sacramento Capitol building with our lobbyist, Gabe Roberson, convincing government legislators to back sensible legislation. He often supported these efforts at his own expense, because DSAC was in “the red.” Nevertheless, he pushed forward and held the association together. One of his greatest legislative accomplishments was during the 1990’s, DSAC successfully sponsored legislation that prohibited a governing board of a school district from requiring a student to complete driver education or behind-the-wheel instruction at the student’s school in order to graduate from high school if the student had completed driver education and driver training at a DMV licensed driving school. This legislation was vigorously opposed by the Department of Education and the powerful California Teacher’s Association. This legislation has become an important part of the Provisional Licensing Law for teenage drivers. Bill defined loyalty. He fought hard for integrity in the industry and against the unfair business practices carried forth by others. He accomplished so much more than people can realize – many people would not even have a business if it had not been for his efforts. In the late eighties he also started involving himself with DSAA attending seminars and board meetings. In 1994 he was awarded the George Hensel award for his accomplishments in California. As I recall related to his efforts of getting the third party testing pilot legislation accomplished.

Bill was my mentor. I followed in his footsteps as President, to his relief and in spite of my insecurities. However, he remained by my side, mentoring me whenever I needed it. I learned so much from him and am so grateful to have had his guidance. He was a wise, good, and honest businessman, who generously shared his knowledge with all of us. He had a gracious heart and nothing but good intentions. Through the years, we became very close. Our mutual respect grew and eventually developed into a bond of brotherhood. I am a very rich man for having had the friendship, love, and respect of my friend Bill. I know that all of us who knew him feel the same way and that his loss is great. The only consolation now is that he is with his son, Billy, and that one day our roads may cross again.