The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

'Windmill man' always helping people

Bill Dalley remembered as 'compassionate, patriotic, deeply faith-based'


December 2, 2018

Courtesy photo

Bill Dalley

PORTALES - For his highly visible and well-known collection of windmills, Bill Dalley will long be remembered as Portales' "windmill man."

But at his memorial service Thursday at the Portales Methodist Church he helped build, Dalley was also eulogized as a builder of homes, of students, of a family, and of his community.

Dalley, 87, died Nov. 25 in Clovis.

For most of life, Portales was his home, and for 36 years, he played a role in the lives of countless students as an educator and counselor with the Portales schools.

Retired Air Force Col. Michael Woolley of Portales remembered being a student in Dalley's sixth-grade class at Lindsey School in the 1963-64 school year, and in particular on Nov. 22, 1963.

"Shortly after lunch, we were on the playground," Woolley said. "Mr. Dalley came out early and escorted us in, then tearfully told us that our president had been killed. Structured, compassionate, patriotic, deeply faith-based. That describes my teacher."

Rev. Amy Jordan said she is an owner of one of the eight homes Dalley and his wife, Alta, built in Portales - they also helped their children build five more - and that she's often imagined Dalley "standing in the dining room surveying what he built."

"I knew his fingerprints were on every single piece of wood in that house," she said, "and his fingerprints are on each and every one of our lives."

Mark McAfee said his father-in-law was a tireless worker with a soft heart who went through life "90 to nothing."

"When he was building a house, we'd get a sack of burgers, and spend all of 7.2 minutes eating lunch," McAfee said with a smile.

Alta Dalley, who met her husband on a blind date in 1953, said Bill made her laugh from the beginning.

"I remember thinking he would make somebody ... I hadn't thought about me ... a good husband," she said.

She said that although she and her husband had grown up in different places - he was born and raised in Davis, Oklahoma, and she grew up as the daughter of an often-relocated Methodist minister - they never considered leaving Portales after they married in 1954.

Before retiring from Portales High School in 1990, "Bill taught fifth grade, then junior high, then back to sixth grade, then junior high again, and he was a high school counselor," Alta said.

Another former PHS counselor, Marcia Brown, joked that she was Dalley's "work wife" after two decades together advising local students.

Brown said Dalley also helped her and her husband build a house on East 17th Street during marathon after-school work sessions.

"He used to not want to quit ... ever," Brown said. "Alta would come at 10 or 11 at night and try to get him to come home. He'd say 'OK' and just keep on working."

"That's the way he built houses," Alta Dalley said. "He'd get up at 4 in the morning, go work on a house, come in for breakfast, clean up, go to school, then go back to building after school."

The collection of 80 windmills that earned the Dalleys national and even international recognition began almost by accident early in the 1980s, Alta said.

"Bill was helping Keith Greathouse tear down a homestead for the old wood," she explained. "Bill loved old wood. He saw some cows rubbing against something metal. He wasn't sure what it was. Keith said it was an old wooden tower windmill, and Bill was interested because of the wood."

The two hauled all the pieces they could collect back to the Dalleys' home on Kilgore Street in Portales, and gradually reassembled it.

Alta said they had no intention of beginning a collection, but "farmers would stop by and say, 'You didn't do the tail quite right, but I have one on the south 40 ... If you'll come get it, you can have it.'"

From there, the collection "just grew," she said, eventually comprising 80 reconstructed windmills that were relocated to the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds starting in 2012.

The windmills are an eye-catching attraction, but those who knew Bill Dalley would likely argue his legacy remains in his kindness, his sense of humor, his faith, and his bottomless compassion for others.

"He was a good guy," Marcia Brown said, "always helping people ... kids ... everybody."


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