William Warren

William (Bill) Warren, age 68, of Orlando, FL, began the freshness of his new day on March 26, 2024.

Bill’s loving wife of 36 years, Lisa, survives him and calls him the best husband and dad ever. He is also survived by sons Chris (Lauren) of Jacksonville and Jonathan of Chicago; his sister, Dana (Johnny) Farmer; and his grandson, Owen. He leaves behind countless friends that he loved; many he considered family.

Bill was preceded in death by his Virginia native parents, Roscoe and Lucy Warren; his New York City in-laws John and Betty Stock (who had legitimate doubts about the southern boy marrying their daughter); his beloved dog Shelby, who he took to Dunkin’ Donuts every Saturday for Munchkins; a 1975 VW Super Beetle convertible; and a 1980 convertible Fiat Spider he bought to attract “chicks” according to his college roommate.

Bill was born in Newport News, VA and attended Warwick High School there. He earned his communications degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and was a true VCU basketball fan, even following them to the Final Four in 2011. He got his first job in 1978 as a city hall reporter in Tampa for the afternoon newspaper. He readily admitted he was beyond green with inexperience.

He moved to Florida without knowing anyone, but found his community quickly by – as he said – “just smiling and saying hi.” Eventually a few fellow reporters also took pity on him and befriended him – they remain among his closest friends to this day. Bill spent 10 years as a business journalist and editor for newspapers in Tampa and Jacksonville before being named founding editor of the Orlando Business Journal in 1984. He called his years at OBJ “The Great Adventure” and said the first edition “wasn’t much – certainly not profitable – but damn, we were proud of it.”

OBJ introduced Bill to the rich Central Florida community he treasured so much. It also introduced him to his wife, Lisa, who was working in local PR and pitched him on a story. Their first meeting did not go well. Reporting about the business community for many years created an interest for Bill to join the corporate world himself. He made the leap from journalism to PR, and was a natural at it. From his days in journalism, he brought the characteristics of honesty and integrity to his work, and he was deeply curious about the people around him and their stories.

At Florida Power Corporation in Winter Park, he was responsible for internal and external communications on hurricanes, electrical safety, nuclear power plants and an endearing mascot named, Louie the Lightning Bug. Bill left there to join Walt Disney World where he led teams of media relations, internal communications, government relations and community relations during his 14 years in leadership with the company. He grew to love Mickey Mouse and all his pals, though admittedly he could never name the seven dwarfs and was the worst at Disney trivia with his kids.

His public relations experiences led him to be named the Public Relations Person of the Year, both locally and statewide – a recognition he was humbled by but treasured. At age 50, he obtained an MBA from Stetson University and was number one in his graduating class. He dreamed of someday teaching communication classes in his retirement. His last career role was in leadership at the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government that oversees the development of Walt Disney World’s vast property. He retired at 59 years old due to memory impairment and Early Onset Alzheimer’s.

Throughout his Alzheimer’s journey he never lost his ability to greet each day with a smile, and he embodied the cheerfulness he was known for throughout his life. He continued to know and love his family and closest friends right up until the day he died, and he won over his caregivers with his happiness and gentleness. A favorite friend and mentor to Bill described him as selfless. And that he was. Bill loved many, many things.

Among those things were college basketball, golfing, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, McDonald’s ice cream cones, Maker’s Mark, UCF football, the Orlando Magic, wearing Notre Dame gear, singing Marc Cohn songs in the car with his kids, being the “goober” of his family and still sharing his spot-on advice with them, sunsets on his back porch, telling people he loved them, playing ping pong and basketball with his sons, afternoon naps with his dog, pumpkin pie, sweet potato fries, salty country ham, Publix commercials that make you cry, Shag dancing, spring training games with buddies, teaching crisis communications, opening doors for strangers, opening career doors and mentoring young professionals, helping seniors, helping the homeless, helping rhinos, the Turkey Trot, making Pinewood Derby cars, hats for his bald head, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, Starlight mints, Snackwell treats, editorial cartoons about Disney and old typewriters. Above all, Bill loved his family and all the time he shared with his boys and wife.

Bill’s funeral will be Monday, April 15, 2024 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, where Bill was married and received into the Catholic Church. A joyful reception will follow because we know Bill was happiest amidst a gathering of friends. Wearing black is not necessary.

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