Bill Gessner photo with twin racquets
Getting up every day and doing something to make the world a better place… 
…what a wonderful and aspirational life focus. Bill Gessner did this in such a down-to-earth, personal way that most of us may not have even noticed. It was just Bill being Bill. 

As with so many things, in hindsight we can see the sum of all his parts more easily than when they were mixed in with all our other day-to-day goings on. Bill made the world a better place one day at time, one phone call at a time, one song, one game of tennis, one person at a time—running through each and every interaction was his devotion to a positive vision of what people can create by working together. 

After Bill’s passing in January of this year, a small group convened to imagine a way to keep Bill’s story and influence alive. They decided to lead a one-year fundraising campaign to raise enough money to sponsor initiatives that would last at least 10 years, in four areas that were important to Bill. The four areas are:Startup food co-opsCooperative growth and developmentCoaching and mentoringInternational cooperative principles The effort paid off, with many individuals and co-ops donating $84,000 to date with contributions ranging from $25 to $5,000. The goal is to surpass $100,000 by the end of 2019. 

Will you please contribute? Click on the “Donate Now” bottom below to contribute to the Bill Gessner Memorial. It’s a simple way to participate in Bill’s approach to life: getting up every day with the intention of making the world a better place. Click here to visit BillGessner.com for more information about how funds will be distributed.
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place! 

For direct contact with the campaign organizers:

Marilyn Scholl, marilynkscholl@gmail.com
Mark Goehring, markgoehring@columinate.coop
Dave Blackburn, dave.blackburn@ncg.coop
Pam Mehnert, p.mehnert@outpost.coop
Dave Gutknecht, davegcoop@gmail.com

This is a “2019-only” campaign — contribute now to be a part of continuing Bill’s legacy.

Here’s some inspiration…

“I had known that Bill was a force – gentle and dogged and able to move even the most ragtag co-ops forward.  I saw how great this force could be when amplified with his deep well of generosity.  Together we can help ensure that his good work continues.”  
–Tim Bartlett, General Manager, Lexington Co-op, Buffalo NY 

“Bill always magically found a spark he could gently fan into a flame to pull us forward and together. Bill Gessner’s wisdom and work to build a better world has been central to nurturing independent cooperatives into a growing cooperative movement.”  
–Rochelle Prunty, General Manager, River Valley Co-op, Northampton, MA

Bill Gessner’s Memorial Slideshow Tribute – with his music.

Bill Gessner Cooperative Hall of Fame Induction Video

Bill Gessner Memorial Program: May 18, 2019

Bill Gessner pre memorial proceedings: May 18, 2019

Bill Gessner “Love is Large” at Esalen 2002

Bill Gessner “Rhode Island” Esalen 2002

Bill Gessner video singing Decorative Pillows


Bill started writing songs when he was about 30 and was inspired by the songwriting traditions of folk, country, and the musical theater. Along with his early fascination with the concept of the singing cowboy, his love of music and songwriting was fueled by the work of a wide and diverse range of songwriters including Gene Autry, Chuck Berry, Boudeleaux and Felice Bryant, A.P. Carter, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Steve Goodman, Woody Guthrie, Bob McDill, Johnny Mercer, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Mickey Newbury, Buck Owens, Utah Phillips, John Prine, Malvina Reynolds, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Ernest Tubb, Loudon Wainwright III, and Cindy Walker.

Bill’s songs aim to touch the listener with humor and heart, spirit and inspiration. He was attracted to singable melodies that are memorable in their simplicity. His goal as a songwriter was to be open and receptive to the world that he lives in and to pursue songwriting as a spiritual practice.

Welcome to Gessnerville was Bill’s first full-length recording, and is produced by Peter Ostroushko, who also plays mandolin and fiddle on a number of the songs. The all-star cast of musicians also includes Chris Rosser, Dan Newton, Rich Dworsky, Diane Tremaine, Kevin Barnes, Prudence Johnson (harmony vocals), and Bob Douglas (harmony vocals).

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I like that town, and I can’t wait to go back!”? Well that’s Gessnerville. I just hope that it keeps growing. Behind every song is a door into another home in town, with another interesting situation. You can sing a Gessnerville song, and you can visit, but you could not create another place like it, and you’d be crazy to try. Think about another cartoonist copying Snoopy or Charlie Brown, or another author rhyming like “The Cat In The Hat.” Some things can’t be copied. That is true uniqueness. A singer can copy Woody Guthrie, or steal a lick from Louis Armstrong, or Jelly Roll Morton, or Leadbelly, or Bob Dylan, but no one can copy Bill Gessner. Not possible! So I’m for letting Bill do his thing. Sometimes I wonder what “his thing” is, and maybe he does too, but I know that I can’t wait to go back to Gessnerville and really relax. —– Charlie Maguire, www.charliemaguire.com



Bill Gessner’s involvement in the food cooperative community has spanned 41 years and he is credited with having helped transform the community from a hodgepodge of individual stores into an integrated, values-driven national community of consumer-owned retail groceries that has changed the way America thinks about food. His commitment to developing people, organizations and systems is evident in his record of achievement. He recognized the need for co-ops to share information about operations and best practices and helped found the Cooperative Grocers Information Network (CGIN). He pioneered the concept of establishing food co-op consulting teams by bringing that focus to several cooperative development organizations before becoming a founding member of the CDS Consulting Cooperative. His work has resulted in the creation of many educational and measurement tools and he was instrumental in the creation of the development model which is at the heart of today’s new food co-op development. Recognizing the power of networking and collaboration, he helped establish a Midwestern regional Cooperative Grocers Association to enable that interaction to occur and he was a driving force behind the creation of the National Cooperative Grocers Association.