Bill Sievert (right) and John Theis on August 31, 2017. (Photo by Mount Dora Buzz)
Some were only fortunate enough to have known him as the co-owner of one of downtown’s favorite stores, the Wow Factory. Bill Sievert’s talent for selecting and merchandising unusual, sometimes even irreverent merchandise, garnered the store Best of Mount Dora acclaim for the last two years, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.
No one needed to scratch the surface to discover there was much more to Sievert than an experienced retailer. He was a talented writer, anti-bullying advocate, equal rights activist and music lover who made a home in the historic district of this central Florida city decades ago.
Sievert passed away over the weekend after being diagnosed with cancer last spring.
An Ohio University graduate with a degree in journalism, Sievert tucked his sheepskin under his arm and embarked on a career in his chosen field that spanned decades and included articles in Rolling Stone Magazine, The New York Times and Washington Post Magazine.
After residing in diverse locales across the country, Sievert settled in Mount Dora and brought with him a deep understanding of people, places and politics. While never wavering from his convictions, he had the increasingly uncommon ability to see multiple sides of issues and to sympathize and be respectful of well-reasoned and fact-based opinions that differed from his own.
Sievert became a pioneer in local media by co-founding Pulse Magazine in 2006. His goal was to provide more stimulating and creative editorial content to the Golden Triangle area. In 2010, Sievert published “Sawdust Confessions” a darkly comedic novel set in a Florida campground.
Arguably, Sievert’s best local writing was his story on Mount Dora’s hidden catacombs, an intriguing look into a communal bomb shelter built by prominent local families during the Cold War. Originally published in Pulse Magazine, in 2015 he gave permission to republish it in Mount Dora Buzz to make the snapshot of cultural history available to a digital audience.
Sievert was also passionately entrenched in his community. He lobbied fiercely for anti-bullying initiatives in Lake County Public Schools and co-founded The Triangle Connection, the social organization and non-profit corporation for the local LGBT community in 2006.
Bill Sievert (left) and John Theis in front of the Wow Factory in downtown Mount Dora in Oct. 2015. (Photo by Mount Dora Buzz)
Sievert’s professional career and dedication to his community were dwarfed by his love of his family and many friends. He was committed to his husband John Theis for over 44 years and relished his time with his two nephews and sister, Barbara.
Mount Dora Buzz is forever grateful for the encouragement, friendship, debate and laughter Bill shared over the years. He will be missed beyond words.
VOICES OF REMEMBRANCE: “Clicked with Bill when he first arrived and before he and John opened the Wow Factory. I will miss so many of his talents but mostly his wonderful wit, his candor and all inclusive nature. Bill was awfully good for me and to me.” - Lauren Graham Cunningham, friend and artist
“Bill was a dear friend to me. I loved him as my second brother. A piece of my heart will forever be broken." - Lynne Drubin, friend and Wow Factory employee
“Bill’s sense of social purpose was matched only by his sense of humor. Every conversation or pronouncement was accompanied by that short, disarming laugh. We’ll miss that!” - Bill Opperman, friend and copy editor
"I always loved laughing with Bill. We both went to Ohio University about the same time and wondered if we had met before. I have a hunch we did. I loved him." - Jane Slivka, friend and artist