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Willard L. Weddell remembered and cherished

Posted at 12:24 AM, Apr 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-04 03:24:54-04

Tonight we take time to remember a Kern County icon that only few came to know, learning some of the memories he left behind.

Thursday in the comfort of his home Willard Weddell at the age of 83, passed away.

But for a man that had seen so much of the world, stopping in Bakersfield and calling Kern County home was just the beginning.

Born in November of 1932 and growing up mainly in Modesto, Willard decided that law would be his life.

And after completing law school, Weddell was officially admitted to the practice in 1961.

Something his daughter Whitney remembers vividly when growing up.

“Well dad was an interesting mix of character. Because Monday through Friday he put on a suit and a tie and he went out into the world and when I was young I didn't really know what he did except that he wore this out and you know he fit into sort of that world,” said Weddell.

Bill had decided to apply to become the counties first public defender and after accepting the position, he would give young aspiring lawyers like Tony Heider a chance to do what they wanted.

“I think I turned 26 when I had my first homicide case. there's no way in the world in San Francisco or Los Angeles or San Diego that such a thing would happen. But Bill trusted you, he trusted his lawyers to do the right thing,” said Heider.

But something that stuck out to Whitney was his love for everyone and his will to make everyone feel important.

“You know it was very familial. I mean these guys were his family members, they came over for dinner. You know we were frequently feeding very young lawyers who probably didn't make very much at the time,” said Weddell.

And while words came quick for the legacy he left behind, his daughter and former coworker say it's the things that he did that left the biggest impact.

“The thing that I think of when I think of him is him being Constitutional. The work that he did and the activism that he did and that he gave to me, it changed our county, changed our state. I'm just so proud of what he was able to accomplish,” said Weddell.

Next to my parents, I don't think there's a man around who influenced me as much as Bill. Because were it not for him, I wouldn't have stayed in Bakersfield. Were it not for him I wouldn't have developed this love of criminal law. Were it not for Bill I wouldn't have had so much fun in the practice of law,” said Heider.

In his last days, Whitney said she was able to spend time with him and let her know everything she was thankful for.

But when asked, Tony quietly paused and thought for many seconds to think of what he would tell Bill if he were sitting across from him for the last time ever.

“…It would be that you're a wonderful person. You're a wonderful man. Influential. And I'll never forget you…,” said Heider.

And still days later the community continues to give thanks and show their love for the man that did so much for his home of, Kern County.