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May 25, 1942 – September 26, 2020
Friends and loved ones are remembering Bill Koelzer as a witty, adventuresome businessman, writer, promoter and traveler who helped establish a San Clemente landmark, the Marine Monument at Park Semper Fi.
He was longstanding president of the Heritage of San Clemente Foundation, which organized a nonprofit to fundraise and build Park Semper Fi, the Marine Monument, on a knoll overlooking the San Clemente Pier.
“Bill was very dedicated to the military,” said Wayne Eggleston, founder of the Heritage foundation and Marine Monument at Park Semper Fi.
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Koelzer, served in the Navy aboard the USS Oriskany, made some 20 trips to China for his travel company and developed a passion for the legend of Bigfoot while residing in Eureka, CA.
That passion eventually led to Koelzer’s publication of a novel, The Bigfoot Experiment.
While residing in Fountain Valley in 1994, he met San Clemente real estate broker Debbie Ferrari through a personal ad in the Orange County Register. They married in 1999 at the Ole Hanson Beach Club and resided together in San Clemente since then.
“Besides being the best husband in the world,” Ferrari said, “he was one of the best SEO guys (search engine optimizers) in the early Internet days.”
Koelzer played varsity basketball and baseball at St. Patrick High School in Portland, Michigan, where he graduated in 1960.
Two high school buddies who had settled in Westminster CA in the 1960s described how their lives changed the day Koelzer showed up at their door. “Our life was fairly boring up to then,” one said. “Work, sleep and then more work. That all changed when Bill arrived. He was like a spark plug, he had so much energy.”
Koelzer studied journalism in community college and at San Jose State University. Over the years he worked as a writer, an editor, an insurance investigator, an advertising and marketing executive, a business consultant, a website designer and an Internet consultant.
In the 1970s, he also operated a dance studio and an ice cream parlor in Arcata CA.
He wrote newspaper and magazine columns and co-authored a series of Internet marketing books.
His travels included multiple visits to Australia and Thailand, but China was his specialty. He learned to speak Mandarin “and practiced it every chance he got,” Ferrari recalled. Sometimes, she said, he would impress staff members at Chinese restaurants with his pronunciation.
Koelzer is survived by wife Debbie, his sister Lynn Koelzer Bailey and his daughters Jacqui and Shelly Koelzer.
The Oct. 18 burial at sea will be attended by family members, followed by a 1 p.m. celebration of life — “a party for Bill” — to be held outdoors in the parking lot of Keller Williams OC – Coastal Castles, Ferrari’s real estate office at 635 Camino de los Mares.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to The Marine Monument @ Park Semper Fi, P.O. Box 456, San Clemente 92674. For Park Semper Fi information call 949-498-4958.