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Kentucky New Era

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Ventriloquist Bill Boley dead at 65

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Posted: Monday, December 18, 2000 12:00 am

From staff reports editor@kentuckynewera.com

The HopkinsvilleChristian County community was mourning the loss today of a man who brought smiles to the faces of thousands with his magic.

Billy Joe "Bill” Boley, 65, internationally recognized ventriloquist and magician, died early Sunday, Dec. 17, 2000, at St. Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tenn., of complications of diabetes.

Boley, a Florence Street resident, had been in show business for more than 40 years, entertaining aboard cruise ships and for thousands of school children at parties and events across the Pennyrile.

Boley donated his time to perform at the citycounty Recreation Department's Summer Adventure Program and at various events for the physically and mentally challenged.

"The kids always thoroughly enjoyed his show no matter how many times they had seen him," said Pam Rudd, activities supervisor at the Recreation Department. "He was very good at adapting his program to different groups. He always had something for everyone."

Ron Gager, coordinator for Hope Family Resource Center at Morningside Elementary School, first saw Boley 30 years ago at Highland Elementary School. Most recently, Boley performed at Morningsides Male to Male program for boys and their mentors or parents. Gager said Boley amazed people with his magic for generations.

"He would get the kids involved. Through the mystery of magic, his show was never the same," Gager said. "Making people smile, that was his life."

Services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Maddux Funeral Home, Hopkinsville, with the Rev. Ralph McConnell officiating. Burial will be in Green Hill Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be from 4 until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Boley, who had a vast collection of ventriloquist characters, had said that he was inspired as a youngster by Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist personality Charlie McCarthy. Among Boley's collection were such comical characters as Buford the Bashful Bull Frog and Jose the Crow.

He entertained on cruise ships for 13 years and wrote 24 books about magic, ventriloquism and comedy. He also authored a number of video and audiotapes on the subject of ventriloquism.

Boley was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Society of American Magicians and served on the board of advisers for the International Ventriloquists Association.

Earlier this year he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the International Ventriloquists Association. In 1976 he was voted Ventriloquist of the Year by the international association.

A native of Todd County, he was born Sept. 9, 1935, the son of Lillian Boley Powell, Hopkinsville, and the late Alvie Boley. He was a Baptist. A daughter, Rebecca Joann Boley, preceded him in death.

In addition to his mother, survivors include his wife, Charlene Boley; a son, Joe A. Boley, who is also a ventriloquist and magician and resides in Hopkinsville; a stepson, Kurt Harter, Des Moines, Iowa; a brother, Bobby Boley, Hopkinsville and one grandson.

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