Funeral Details

William Arthur "Bill" Siegel

December 24, 1962 - December 9, 2018


Date and Time

Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 6:00 PM


Chicago Jewish Funerals
Skokie Chapel
8851 Skokie Boulevard
Skokie, Illinois 60077
Get Directions


Larry Wood

Interment - Private


Chicago Jewish Funerals
8851 Skokie Boulevard
Skokie, Illinois 60077
Get Directions
Immediately following the service

Memorial Contributions

For the benefit of Bill's Childrens' College Education, Memorials may be made to
Lauren S. Goffen
F/B/O Louis Siegel and Johanna Siegel
Mail to:
Chicago Jewish Funerals
8851 Skokie Boulevard
Skokie, Illinois 60077
Charity of your choice


William Arthur "Bill" Siegel

Bill Siegel brought his deep, strong heart to everything that interested him, and widely shared his wisdom, whip-smart humor, and keen insights. A father who was thrilled by and committed to his two kids, Louie and Johanna, Bill was also a brilliant filmmaker, educator, storyteller, interlocutor, teacher, mentor, activist and life-long friend to an impossibly large number of people.

An internationally acclaimed award-winning documentary filmmaker, Bill co-directed and produced The Weather Underground (2003), which premiered at Sundance, was included in the Whitney Biennial, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. He produced, directed, and researched The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013), which focused on Ali?s emergence as a political activist, as the boxer refused Vietnam War military service, sacrificed his career, embraced Islam and became an internationally treasured voice for social justice. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, aired on PBS, and earned many awards and three Emmy nominations, including Best Documentary, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Long-Form Historical Programming.

Bill completed both of these feature-length films while holding down a demanding day job at The Great Books Foundation, where he served in roles ranging from Trainer to Vice President of School Programs and co-founded its Digital Media department.

As a child Bill was driven by passionate interests: baseball, the Little Rascals, the biography of Rasputin, anything having to do with Rod Carew, trading cards, and comic books. After graduating from The Blake Schools Bill pursued his B.A. in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he became increasingly drawn to learn about politics and social change. As he earned his M.S. degree at the Columbia University School of Journalism Bill worked on archival film research for projects on Muhammad Ali, work that led to a research job on Hoop Dreams.

Bill?s calling was to connect modern audiences, especially young people, with stories from history, using a modern dialect to deepen viewers' critical thinking and political engagement. Creating from a place of integrity and curiosity, he gained the trust and respect of those whose stories he told. As Bill Ayers commented, Bill was "one of the keenest observers of our wild, diverse humanity that I've ever known. He saw our greatness and our weirdness, took it all in, and worked to make us a little wiser, a little more joyful and just, a bit more peaceful and understanding and loving."

Bill honed his craft as prober of people's thinking during his twenty three years at Great Books, where he led more than a thousand seminars in all types and sizes of schools-urban, suburban, rural, public, private, charter and faith-based-guiding thousands of teachers in using a Socratic approach to pose questions and then back off to let students answer them.

Bill?s final completed project, which he was immensely proud of, was a WETA television study guide and webinar for Ken Burns and Lynne Novick?s series, The Vietnam War. Bill?s current feature-length documentary-in-process recently received enthusiastic PBS Independent Lens funding. Titled America Sells Itself, the film mines the United States Information Agency (USIA) archives to investigate the U.S. government?s Cold War era effort to sell American-style democracy.

Bill loved baseball and rock and roll, and was lead visionary, front man, lyricist and composer for his band, the Willis Project, which had a NYC premiere at CBGB. A proud Bad Jew and sauna bathing Finn, he held his family and their Minnesota cabin culture at the center of his being.

In his 2016 article, following the launch of The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Bill wrote, "When you're Muhammad Ali, on the threshold of history looking forward, not knowing how it is going to turn out and being nonetheless ready to go to jail and sacrifice your career, the idea of being who you want to be defines courage. In that sense, we are all Muhammad Ali. We're all making history every day... There will never be another Muhammad Ali within the boxing ring. But beyond the boxing ring, he represents the capacity we all have to live truly moral, principled and humane lives." Bill did just that: he worked, tirelessly, to live a truly moral, principled, and humane life. He worked to find the courage to figure out how to be who he wanted to be, not knowing how it would turn out.

Bill was predeceased by father Richard, mother Libby, and infant brother David, and in addition to children Louie and Johanna, he is mourned by sisters, Ellie (William Warren) Siegel, Janet Ha, Margie (Scott Horne) Siegel; his former wife, Lauren Goffen, partner Kim Wade, and seven nieces and nephews, each of whom, like Bill?s countless friends, felt a unique and life-forming bond with him. Bill will be remembered for his kindness and generosity, his charm, his fearless and ferocious curiosity, his incisive intelligence, his spirited sense of humor--and for his pleasure in being alive.

Service Saturday December 15th, 6:00 p.m. at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 8851 Skokie Blvd., (at Niles Center Road) Skokie, IL, followed by a gathering at the same location.
Memorials in Bill?s name to an organization of the donor?s choice would be appreciated, or visit to contribute to his children?s education funds.

Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals - Skokie Chapel 847.229.8822,


We encourage you to share your personal condolences and stories of William Arthur "Bill" Siegel below and we will share them with the family.
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I knew Bill as a filmaker with a passion for telling stories of vital importance that had been overlooked. His tenacity and humor made him a pleasure to work with.

Gordon Quinn
December 13, 2018
The universe has gained a new bright and shiny star, but the world has lost a beautiful person who illuminated this earth with his creative brilliance, kindness, and compassion. Bill Siegel, you will be missed beyond what you ever would have imagined. But your legacy will live on for a very long time. I am so happy I got the change to know you, my Minnesota friend! Deepest condolences to your family and others who love you dearly.

Jeanie Kahnke
December 13, 2018
My sincerest, heartfelt condolences to Bill, his family, and friends. I am very surprised and deeply saddened by his sudden passing. My short correspondence with him began just a few weeks ago. He and Beth contacted me to ask if I could conduct research for American Sells Itself. Last Thursday we met him for coffee for the first time during his trip to Washington for this newest film. Prior to meeting him I knew and greatly admired his documentary work on The Weather Underground. During our meeting I was inspired by his vision for the new film and thrilled at the prospect of working with him to tell this story. I was very impressed with his kindness and capacity to listen with great interest to the experiences that I could bring to the film. He also sent me a very kind note following our discussion. I was moved by his calm thoughtfulness. I felt he was a wise and kindred spirit. I am remarkably sad to know I can no longer work and learn from him. I am very sorry for his family and friends.

Sarah Katz
December 14, 2018
Dear Ellie and Bill,
My condolences to you and your family on the passing of Bill. When I read Bill??s obituary in the Strib, I was struck by his amazing accomplishments for being such a young man! He was a wonder! I will be thinking of you during this sorrowful time and hope that your memories of Billy bring you comfort and joy. Sending you love.

Pamela Endean
December 14, 2018
It is with sorrow to learn of Bill's passing. I had the privileged of growing up just a few doors down from him. We became great friends and had many magical adventures. One of Bill's great joys was spending time at his families cabin of which many times I was invited to share their getaway.

One Friday night we decided to go to the cabin and we didn't leave until the middle of the night. Upon arriving Bill coaxed me into launching the the dark... After floating out to the middle of the lake the sun was just breaking out of the horizon when we noticed a loon floating on the air above the lake. We watched and to our amazement the loon circled around and approached us from the rising sun, dipped to eye level and passed between us as it landed not 10 feet from us.
This was what is was like to know and be associated with Bill, you could always expect something magical to happen.

I could tell countless stories similar to this of our shared experience that I shall treasure forever. I will keep him alive is my heart as he has taken a little bit of mine with him.

My heart and sorrow go out to his family and friends. We were all better for having known him.

Randy Plaisance

December 15, 2018