William E. LaMothe, 95, of Battle Creek, Michigan and Ave Maria, Florida passed into eternal life Wednesday, September 21, 2022.
Bill was born October 23, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York to William J. and Gertrude (Ryan) LaMothe. He grew up on Long Island and graduated from Xavier High School in New York City. After graduation he joined the U.S. Navy during the height of WWII. He served on the USS Monrovia and USS Seminole in the Asiatic-Pacific and stateside. After his discharge, he was asked by his father to return to New York, and despite his newfound love for California, he dutifully returned to home. His father passed soon after Bill's return and he took over for him as head of the household, aiding his mother and two sisters in his father's absence. It was an early indication of how Bill would frequently sacrifice himself to help others.
Bill graduated from Fordham University in 1950, also the year he married his beloved wife Patricia Alexander. Soon after, Bill began his career with the Kellogg Company, driving around New York in a station wagon with boxes of Pep and Shredded Wheat, trying to convince mom and pop grocers to buy more Kellogg products. His drive and determination to build the business attracted the attention of leadership in company headquarters, located in Battle Creek, Michigan. Bill was offered a position there and he moved Pat and their two children to what seemed like the hinterlands at the time.
Bill quickly rose through the ranks at Kellogg, soon becoming an assistant to the CEO, Lyle Roll, who carefully mentored Bill to become a leader in the company. Bill held many positions in the following years. In each and every assignment he excelled. He was driven. He was smart. He was intensely honest. The recognition of these traits eventually resulted in his selection as CEO at age of 52.
After serving 42 years with the Kellogg Company, 12 of which as CEO, Bill retired on January 1, 1992 as Chairman Emeritus. He was then elected to the Board and Trust of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and retired from both the Foundation and Company Boards in 2000.
People who knew Bill and Pat knew they were both devoted to their Catholic faith. Though Pat took the leadership role in that department, Bill was her willing and devoted partner. It was their faith that sustained them through difficult times, including being passed over for CEO in his early forties. Together in faith, they raised their six children in Battle Creek. With Bill frequently traveling to the four corners of the globe, Pat took the lead at home.
Bill's impact on the Kellogg Company and Battle Creek was significant. His tenacity and hard work won battles against the U.S. Federal Trade Com-mission which seemed determined to create a legal precedent by breaking Kellogg's up into three companies. After a contentious ten year battle, The FTC finally agreed to drop the case.
Bill's sense of right and wrong led him to take a strong, and at the time, wildly unpopular stand on apartheid in South Africa for the Kellogg Company. While many corporations simply left or washed their hands of personal responsibility under this horrific system, Bill's conscience drove him to vigorously lobby the Botha regime for change and to, in the meantime, help all of his Kellogg family to thrive in South Africa. With the help of W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a school was built for the employees' children and other important assistance to employees was implemented. Kellogg's became a leading change agent in South Africa, including being the first company to visibly flout the law prohibiting Black South Africans to hold leadership positions in corporations.
In the mid 1970's, in an effort to streamline taxes and foster greater cooperation within the community, Bill asked the people of the greater Battle Creek area to unify their government. Offering the carrot of greater investment and the stick of moving to another U.S. city, the merger of the city and two key townships was overwhelmingly approved. Bill, as always, was better than his word. Both Kellogg's and the WKKF increased efforts to build and improve the local community. A new massive, high-tech plant, stunning corporate headquarters and multiple investments in quality of life projects soon followed.
Bill was not one to lead from behind, writing checks and passing out assignments. He personally served on numerous community boards, devoting much of his precious personal time to help others. His commitment to educational programs, drug-free workplace programs, social planning and economic programs in the community had a huge impact locally, nationally and internationally for Battle Creek. He was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, former member and past chairman of the Battle Creek Community Foundation, former member of the Art Council of Battle Creek, former member of the Economic Development Form Steering Committee and former chairman of the Drug Free Workplace Steering Committee. He was also very proud of his involvement with Hillsdale College, serving as a board member and later Trustee. Bill's leadership skills, business knowledge and reputation for unwavering integrity also earned him a position on the boards of Kimberly-Clark, Upjohn, Sears and Allstate.
After retirement, Bill did not rest. Bill and Pat moved to Ave Maria, Florida in 2014 where he remained active with membership in the Del Webb Veterans Club, the Ave Maria Knights of Columbus, the Ave Maria Catholic Church, and the Catholic K-12 Academy. Bill was at his home office desk for hours every day, writing, calling, and lobbying for change and improvements in education, politics and even within the Catholic sphere.
Much of his time was devoted to finding ways to expand the opportunity for and impact of faithful Catholic education. Through the generosity of Bill and Pat, several Catholic K-12 schools in Battle Creek, Grand Rapids and Traverse City, MI, Ave Maria, FL along with Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law were able to grow and offer faithful Catholic education to countless families.
When his dear wife, Pat, became wheelchair bound and stricken by Alzheimer's, Bill quietly re-invented himself, learning how to cook, operate a handicap van, and many other critical caretaker skills. He tended to her day in and day out for seven years. Never failing, never complaining, and tirelessly keeping her engaged in the family, community and their cherished church. Bill lived his wedding vows to Pat with devotion and love until her death in 2021. In short Bill LaMothe was not only a good man, he was an amazing example of what God's grace can do, if accepted with a willing and true heart.
His Kellogg Family, his beloved Battle Creek and Ave Maria communities, and especially his own family will miss him terribly.
His daughters, Alexis LaMothe of Carmel, IN,
Lesley LaMothe of Washington D.C.,
Sydney (Jeffrey) LaMothe McManus of Ave Maria, FL,
And sons, Christopher (Julie) LaMothe of Indianapolis, IN,
Ryan (Cindy) LaMothe of Louisville, KY,
Regan (Michele) LaMothe of Grand Rapids, MI wish to thank everyone for their prayers, expressions of love and condolences.
In lieu of flowers and in honor of Bill's life, please consider a donation to:
St. John Henry Newman Institute for Classical Education and Reverent Liturgy. Email email@example.com or call 248-210-8797 for more information on how to make a donation, or click the following link:
The Rhodora J. Donahue Catholic Academy William E. And Patricia A. LaMothe Scholarship Fund which was established to assist larger Catholic families with scholarships for their children, https://www.avegives.org/lamothefund
Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools https://bcacs.org/donate/
Friends and associates will be received at Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Cremation Preneed Care on Thursday, October 6th from 4:00- 7:00 p.m. where the Rosary will be recited at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. The Rosary will be livestreamed and may be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/event/2470529. A Latin Requiem Mass will be celebrated by Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Rev. James Richardson at St. Philip Roman Catholic Church 11:00 a.m. Friday, October 7, 2022. This service will be livestreamed and viewed at the following link: https://youtu.be/1SQ2ZsNPrY8. Military honors by the U.S. Navy and Fort Custer National Cemetery Honor Guards will follow at Fort Custer National Cemetery, where interment will be held.
Personal messages or remembrances of Bill may be placed above in the Memory Book, here at www.farleyestesdowdle.com.