William “Paco” Thomas Strickland

November 15, 1952 - January 21, 2013
William “Paco” Thomas Strickland

William Thomas “Paco” Strickland of Wilmington, North Carolina, passed away on Monday, January 21, 2013 in Wilmington, North Carolina at age 60 after a valiant 4-year battle with multiple myeloma (a rare bone marrow cancer).

William (Bill) is preceded in death by his father, the late George Strickland.

He is survived by his mother, Betty Strickland, and his sister, Colleen Strickland, of Columbus, Ohio. He is also survived by Connie Nelson, his longtime love, whom he recently wed, who was by his side when he peacefully passed. He leaves behind his nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, guitar students, and friends from Columbus to Wilmington and beyond.

Bill/Paco maintained friendships from early childhood through every age and phase of his rich and full life. He was always up for an impromptu porch party and eager to share his favorite music, a good cigar, an outrageous story, and his own wicked sangria.

A consummate and accomplished guitarist who also composed his own music, he performed with various bands in countless concerts throughout the U.S., and recorded numerous CDs with his Fabulous Flying Flamenco Brothers. He played many genres of music, including rock, blues, country, and most recently Flamenco/Spanish guitar. An icon in the Wilmington music scene, he hosted a Flamenco radio program that aired for nearly 15 years on Wilmington’s NPR affiliate WHQR (where he was nicknamed “Paco”) and most recently on 98.3 The Penguin, as well as in syndication in other U.S. markets.

William “Paco” Strickland was a man of many passions. In addition to music which he performed for more than four decades, he was a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in physical education. He was an avid athlete who ran numerous marathons, swam, cycled, and led popular spin classes and extreme workouts. He took up surfing in his fifties and was in the water with fellow Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach long boarders almost daily until his diagnosis. His music was featured in several independent films, surf reports and surf videos on the left and right coasts. His writing appeared in publications such as Focus on the Coast, Encore magazine, the Wilmington Star-News, and Reel Carolina.

He lived and died very much on his own terms-with joy, with impact, with happiness, and with strength of will. His family, friends, neighbors, caregivers and fans filled his heart with love and gratitude. On his behalf, Connie and family members wish to thank those who were part of his life and how each of you brought out the best in him. Please remember him playing his guitar for friends and fans, surfing on his Eavey Rider surfboards, running long, walking his beloved golden retriever Charlie, always stopping to smell the magnolias and honeysuckle, or to pick a few camellias.

A Remembrance of William “Paco” Strickland’s Life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street in Wilmington. A sunrise Paddle Out to honor Paco will take place that same morning on Wrightsville Beach Access Number 2 at 6:45 AM. Details of the ceremonial Paddle Out will be posted on the wblivesurf.com website and FaceBook page in the coming days. There will also be at Commemorative Musical Jam Session at 6 PM on Saturday evening at Mixto, 5 South Waters Street, Wilmington. If you are unable to join us in Wilmington, consider lighting a candle for Bill/Paco and seek comfort in its golden light.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in William “Paco” Strickland’s honor to the nonprofit organizations that came to his aid: Hope From Helen, P.O. Box 187, Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480 (www.hopefromhelen.com), as well as Lower Cape Fear Hospice (www.hospiceandlifecarecenter.org), and Leukemia Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org).

Please share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Sign Guest Book” tab above.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation, 1535 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC 28403 910.791.9099


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  • February 20, 2014
    Jennie R Banish says:
    We knew Bill and his family many many years ago.Are thoughts& prayers are with all of you. We have been listening to his music. It has been 30 plus years since we have seen him.We always enjoyed being around him and his family.He and my brother played guitars together and were good friends.My husband also knew him.Connie although we don't know each other my heart go's out to you.My husband passed away Dec 2012.It was nice to see him on the videos & hear him play.Some people you don't forget.He was special. God bless Jennie Banish & Marc Stevens

  • January 26, 2013
    Lyle Baroski says:
    I only met Paco once, and we spoke briefly. When I found out he was having health problems, I emailed him to encourage him to keep up his fight. Paco was always cordial to me even though I was a stranger. He had a great energy and integrity, and he was one of the rare masters of his craft. If there is an afterlife, I hope I will see him again.

  • February 02, 2013
    Mary Ann Furniss says:
    Paco, your beautiful music and friendship will live on in our hearts. Thank you for the wonderful gift you gave us all.

  • January 22, 2013
    kasandra edge says:
    I knew Paco only briefly but was so moved by his humility, kindness, and talent. In 2008, my husband and I contacted Paco to play our wedding. I was so nervous calling him initially because i assumed that with all that crazy talent, Paco would be arrogant and haughty. I was instantly blown away and forever imprinted with his easy nature and warm spirit. His music will always move me and my memory of his good nature will remain with me. His soul is one for the universe. My deepest condolences. - kasandra lin edge.

  • January 25, 2013
    connie gersbach says:
    He's running with my dogs in heaven, and his face is adorned with a beautiful smile. His first gig was for my sister Carolyn's surprise 50th birthday party,comple. te with Mexican food and punchbowls of Margaritas.catch a wave, bill in honor of all the lives you changed. We will always love you.