Someone You Should Know: Setback never stopped him from competing

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 4:52 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Bill Marlette spends a lot of time out here, on a pickleball court.

“About three, four years ago, Mike Begeman, his wife Gale, and my wife Jan talked us into playing pickleball. We kind of reluctantly did it and got addicted to it,” said Bill.

Bill and Mike are doubles partners in this weekday league at the Sanford Pentagon.

“It’s competition, it’s very social. You play with different people all the time,” said Bill.

For Bill, competition has always been a part of his life. Even after tragedy happened, right after his sophomore year of high school.

“We were at a party outside of a lake, outside of Redfield, South Dakota, Cottonwood Lake. And for some reason, I was giving a girl a ride on a motorcycle. Came over a hill on a gravel road, and the gravel was loose. We met at the top of the hill, and I stuck my arm out to push out. And it went through the windshield. That’s how I lost my arm.”

Despite losing his left arm, it didn’t stop him from playing.

“Mid-July, I was playing baseball. That fall, I was playing football. Then I wrestled. And then Ken Greeno was my track coach, so I ran track and then cycled back to baseball. I credit my high school friends, who I still golf with all the time. They just didn’t give me an option. As I look back, I almost didn’t have a choice. They forced me to be normal,” said Bill.

Bill has continued to stay active in sports his entire life.

“He has never had any limitations as far as playing any sport that I’ve ever been around him. And he refuses to make his limitation part of any excuse. And playing softball, playing golf, playing pickleball. And the limitation of not having an arm has never gotten in front or been a barrier to him competing in all those sports,” said doubles partner Mike Begeman.

Now 65 and retired after working more than thirty years in finance at Sanford Health, Bill has a new title as the president of the Sioux Falls Area Pickleball Club.

“I got involved with the board this last year. It had gotten to the size that it needed some more structure. So we actually formed a nonprofit corporation. We’re up to almost 700 members right now,” said Bill.

“Yeah, we give him a little heat because he’s really kind of a big deal now. He’s been a CPA and been a finance guy, and those guys are really boring. And now he really has a purpose — he’s a pickleball president,” said Mike.

He is a leader of a growing organization, who’s also been an inspiration.

“I just like competition. I’ve always liked competition. I hope I’m golfing, skiing, and playing pickleball well into my 80s,” said Bill.