Bill Elfers died peacefully at home on November 28, 2020, after a long struggle with ALS. Bill lived an incredibly full and productive life and left the world a better place for having lived in it. His thoughtful approach to life’s challenges, his incredible loyalty to family and friends, his ability to rally those around him to achieve great things, and his appreciation and devotion to the arts and education were but some of the characteristics that made him exceptional.
Bill was born at Richardson House in Boston on April 9, 1949, to Ann Rice Elfers and William Elfers. He had an idyllic childhood, first in a 4th-floor walk-up apartment on lower Beacon Street, and later, in Wellesley Hills, to which he would return to live with his wife Deborah and their daughters. Bill attended the Fessenden School ’63, The Hotchkiss School ’67, Princeton University ’71 and The Harvard Business School ’74.
While at Princeton, Bill was very active with the school’s newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, and became the paper’s business manager in 1970. His love of newspapers was to be rekindled years later, when he created Community Newspaper Company for Fidelity Capital. After graduating from Princeton, he attended Heidelberg University (Germany), as a Fulbright Scholar, during which time he famously showed up, unannounced, in the small town of Daverden, to look for his German relatives, and in doing so renewed a wonderful and lasting family connection that had been lost over many years. Bill was the type of person to follow through with great determination to realize an idea, whether it be traveling all the way to a small village in northern Germany, or doing deals all over Massachusetts to acquire village newspapers to form a successful media company. For those along for the ride, it could sometimes be exhausting, but it was always exhilarating.
In the summer of 1973, Bill worked at Fidelity Investments as a security analyst with Peter Lynch, and after graduating from Harvard, he worked in New York as an investment officer at Brown Brothers Harriman, advising European clients on U.S. equity investments. In 1979 Bill returned to Boston (and Fidelity) as a partner at Fidelity Ventures, where he remained until 1989. In 1989 he became a managing director of Fidelity Capital, where he founded several companies and made many successful venture deals. In 1990 he created and built Community Newspaper Company and served as its CEO until its sale in 2001. In 2002, he founded Tower Capital Partners, and served until 2020 as its managing partner, overseeing investments in private equity companies and hedge funds. He was President of the Elfers Foundation for many years.
Bill devoted long hours of time and energy to his community, committed to making the world a better place. He served as Trustee and a member of the Investment Committees of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, both of these for more than 20 years. In the 1980s, he co-founded, with friends, the Museum of Fine Arts Council, and helped introduce a new generation to support the institution. Their parties were legendary. Bill was also a Trustee and Vice Chair of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where he worked diligently to grow the hospital’s charitable foundation, inspiring among many other wonderful things the creation of a cardiovascular center, named to honor his father. He served on the Investment Committee of the Hotchkiss School, and was the school’s Treasurer for many years. While his daughters attended the Winsor School, he served as Trustee and Treasurer of their school, and guided the institution through an ambitious capital campaign, which culminated in the building of a much needed academic and athletic complex. In recognition of his extraordinary contributions of time and talent, Bill was named Trustee Emeritus at the Hotchkiss School, the Fessenden School, the MFA, and the BSO. He served for many years as Trustee of his beloved college newspaper, the Daily Princetonian.
Family and friends were foremost in Bill’s life, and in addition to being devoted to his family, he was a loyal, generous and loving friend to many. A dear friend summed it up this way in a last letter to Bill: “The great mark of success in my mind is not what we may or may not accomplish for ourselves in life, but how we will be remembered for what we did for others during our time on earth. You have been an outstanding success, Bill. Well done.”
Bill leaves behind his wife, Deborah Bennett Elfers, his daughters Katherine Adams Elfers and Amelia Rice Elfers, his sister Jane Elfers Muther, his brother-in-law Herbert Muther, and several nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Joanne Elfers, and his parents, Ann Rice Elfers and William Elfers.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Due to current restrictions, a memorial service will be held at a later date. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Mass General Hospital Department of Neurology – Research under the direction of Dr. James Berry, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114 Attn: Krista McCabe. Arrangements are by the Saunders-Dwyer Mattapoisett Home for Funerals, 50 County Rd., Mattapoisett. For online condolence book, please visit www.saundersdwyer.com.