For those who work or practice at Family Court, everyone knew “Marshal Bill.” William Michael Datthyn was born on October 13, 1971, in New York and tragically passed on September 3, 2017, on a river in Idaho. Bill is survived by his mother, 2 brothers, 1 married sister and their children. A memorial was held at City Hall on September 15, 2017. Stories from his life were shared by both family and friends. I was approached by Vegas Legal Magazine to do a story on Bill from my personal perspective since not only was I his boss, he was a best friend. I was awoken many times during the weeknights leading up to my talk given at his memorial and I took them as Bill giving me hints as to what he wanted me to say. In the past week, this has occurred yet again. That is when this article changed from silly stories from our “bromance” to a simple acknowledgment of Bill’s heroism.
Bill followed in his mother’s footsteps and became an NYPD officer in January 1993. He obtained special permission to wear his mother’s retired shield #891. Bill was in New York for those tragic events of September 11, 2001. Fortunately, he was not in or around the buildings that came down on that fateful day. Bill did know some of the first responders that perished and in the long weeks afterward, he worked tirelessly in the cleanup efforts of that enormous aftermath. Bill discussed generally what he did in those cleanup efforts, but the specifics he kept mostly to himself. From what Bill said, he was involved in the discovery and cataloging of body parts as they were recovered. His sister stated at the memorial that Bill would often brag that he got to eat for free at Olive Garden after his long shifts.
In May 2006, Bill was in a motorcycle accident where he sustained injuries that would not allow him to continue his NYPD service. He later moved to Las Vegas and was hired briefly by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security. This was his way of trying to continue to keep our country safe. However, as you may recall from the many news stories at the time, the TSA was in complete disarray. Bill could not handle chaos; he needed things to be neat and organized. As a result, he resigned from the TSA and took a job as an Administrative Marshal at Family Court in January 2007.
I hired Bill as my Judicial Marshal prior to taking the bench in January 2009. We worked together from my first day on the job until his last day on the job. 9/11 was always a special day for Bill. He would always bring to work a small corner of stone every 9/11 to remind fellow employees, attorneys, litigants, etc. to “never forget.” I am certain that piece of stone from those hallowed grounds was his most cherished object in this life. At his memorial, the U.S. flag flown at half-staff at Family Court on September 11, 2017, was presented to Bill’s family as a token of his dedicated service.
Bill was a protector. As a judge, it is truly overwhelming to contemplate that a fellow human being has taken an oath to protect my life. I have no doubt that Bill would have sacrificed his life for me or my family. I would often bring Bill along to social events as he loved to socialize. If the event included other judges and had no security, he then became the security. Bill would take a strategic position in the room and constantly scan for any issues. When judges would slip out of the event, he would escort them to their car to ensure they left safely. He was not paid a dime for this service.
Bill was compassionate. Every Valentine’s Day he would buy 100 roses and hand them out to all the female employees in the building. He wanted to ensure that everyone was recognized on that day and that no one was overlooked. Except for the hot summer months, Bill held a monthly barbeque in our parking lot, sending reminders out to the whole building. Tips were accepted, which he would put toward the next month’s costs. Normally, he personally just funded the difference. It was done not only to feed those who enjoyed his cooking, but to also create a social environment. Bill had a photographic memory. Whenever we walked the halls and someone would ask him when the next barbeque was, he could later tell me their name, job title and a few things personal things about them.
A few weeks before he passed, Bill received a phone call from his doctor while we were preparing for court. He then approached me and disclosed that he had been paying out-of-pocket every year for specialized tests to ensure that his service at Ground Zero had not affected his health. Bill disclosed that whatever levels they were monitoring had just become elevated. For the first time ever, I could sense fear in my friend. I tried to console him that tests were often wrong and everything was going to be just fine. Bill then decided to take a last minute trip to go be with his family when the accident occurred.
I do not profess to know all of life’s answers. However, I do believe that all things happen for a reason. My belief of this tragic accident–it was Deity simply having compassion on this faithful servant of our community and not allowing him to suffer or endure incomprehensible pain. I miss my best friend. Just the other day an attorney gave me his condolences. He teared up, so did I and then we both became blubbering messes. What would cause 2 grown men to sob like children? It was the service, compassion, protection, heroism, and friendship of William Michael Datthyn. Godspeed Marshal Bill!
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