Bill Pfanner – Athletic Ability, Beach Partying and Friend

Bill Pfanner and his Truck he never got to restore

Bill Pfanner and his Dodge truck he never got to restore

To many of La Jolla’s 60s beach crowd they  probably don’t know of Bill Pfanner, but to the early 70s WindanSea wall crowd,  he was well-known for his, athletic ability, beach life,  partying and just a good all around person. A true friend to many.   He had no enemies.

He was one of those Jack Of All Trades …  master at making a few bucks, which ever way he could. Painting, laying brick, clean-up and putting on mini-keg parties was what he was good at.

He loved playing street hockey with Beachball, Canning, Burriston, the Wyres, Paul Dougless, Little Chucky, Bill Wilhelm, Moranville, the Woods, Otter and Beaver, and many more.

He hung out at the WindanSea wall and at Sea Lane, body whomped and surfed. His traveling took him to Mexico, Palm Springs for the Easter Vacation, and Mammoth. He was a thrill seeker, like to test the outer limits so to say and free spirited. He went to Mammoth to work at the lodge sizing boots  for skiers feet … and hated it …  but it did give him a free ski pass that was worth smelling stinky feet 12 hours a day.

He was the only person whose tragic accident occurred during a Mac Meda Sorrento Valley Convention in 1975, which  ended his young life in 1977.  A little buzzed, he took a motorcycle for a spin on Carmel Mountain’d dirt road, rounded a corner …  and hit a Porsche head on, whose driver was going to the Convention.   The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and devastated the life of the girl that hit him. She was his friend!

Bill always said,  “It was his fault.” And never had any hard feelings to her.

For the next two years  he tried to live in a wheelchair, but his ability of not being able to feel the touch of sand on his feet, and cruise with his friends eventually lead to him taking a ton of pills that ended his life in 1977.  He just turned 26.

He left a suicide note to his mom, reminding her to please pay off  the money his best friend,  Kip Ives had loan him; a last bit of honor and  integrity that still lives in Kip’s mind to this day. A real life story of what friendship is all about.

His wake was the first one every held at La Jolla High School at the Girls Field.  A rock band played and many kegs of beer and shots  filled the stomach. A few hundred came to celebrate the passing of a truly good person.

Even after 30 plus years,  he is still talked about … we  miss him.


  1. Annie Burriston Powell says:

    I have so many fond memories of Bill. Before moving to Idaho we were inseparable. We loved going to the Padre Games, going bowling, of course hanging out at El Ranchero, streaking the downtown core, playing pool, or just hanging out at Dino’s it was all good times. I considered Bill my soul mate and still miss him to this day. My life changed forever when my brother called to tell me of his accident. I am sure a lot of you feel the same. But no one can take away the memories. Love this site, keep up the good work. La Distorta

  2. Beachball says:

    Great Guy….Great fun…polite and nice to all…drove to Steamboat with him….what a ride…cases of brew and an 8 track…still miss him…beachball

  3. Michael Sparks says:

    Pfanner was an amazing guy as everyone has noted. I too think of him often and even at times he pops up in a dream…don’t ask me why. I guess there are those people who come into your life, no matter for how short a period of time, and never leave you the same. The glue that held many of us together in high school, he was able to move across different groups and clicks in high school high and find ways to make it ok for people who would not usually hang out together, do so. When I think of growing up in LaJolla, one of my best memories is Sea Lane and Pfanner; oh, and of course, Hauf Brau (aka Half brew); oh yeah, and Nobles pool parties; and can’t leave out driving MG’s. May his memory live on.

  4. Dan Dameron says:

    I remember Bill Pfanner always “Open” when we were on the same side or intercepting it when he was on the other team when we played football on Sundays at the Girls Field. The truck in the photo he sold to Dennis Downie and Dennis drove it for at least 10 years (or so it seemed). Long enough to go “Hill Hopping” in Sorrento Valley after the El Sombrero closed on numerous occassions.

  5. Ray Townsend says:

    I had my first beer, a warm 16oz can of coors,in Bill Pfanner’s attic fort when we were in 9th grade. He made me guzzle it and we both had a good laugh; I think Bob Noble was there also. I cried like a baby when Mike Crouse called to tell me about Bill’s death. I don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t like Bill and want to claim him as their best friend.

  6. Bill Wilhelm says:

    After 30 years the memory of Bill still runs deep. His death was the first of many but will always hurt the most. He would always be the first to try something new, such as hang-gliding, and was the one who organized many of our sporting and party events. My world has never been as exciting as when Bill Pfanner helped direct it.

  7. Mike Crouse says:

    I always concidered Pfanner one of my BEST FRIENDS if the best. We did a lot together and like Kip says I still think of him often!

  8. I follow this website often and love it, but this post really hit me. Bill was such a great guy! That was such a sad time for all of us. I remember going to his house to see him and how hard it was. I’m at the beach watching a sunset right now thinking of all the good LJ times.

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