“An enormous part of his contribution was not only the strategic focus and the institutional structure of the foundation, but he helped establish the principles we worked by,” Ms. Stonesifer said of Mr. Gates Sr. in an interview for this obituary in January. “He was a daily reminder that just because you have the checkbook doesn’t mean you have the knowledge or the experience on the issues we are trying to address; that we need to listen to the people who have the experience and the knowledge.”
Bill Gates Jr. credited his father with the early success of the foundation. “I make sure the resources are available, and he works to wisely spend the money,” he told The Seattle Times in 2003.
A prominent Seattle lawyer with heavy civic and professional obligations, Mr. Gates Sr. had largely left to his wife, Mary, the duties of raising their two daughters and one son, Bill, who, all agreed, became insufferably argumentative as a boy — resisting his mother’s requests that he clean up his room, that he stop biting his pencils and that he sit down to dinner on time.
Their test of wills exploded one night at the dinner table, with Bill shouting at his mother in what he described years later to The Wall Street Journal as “utter, total, sarcastic, smart-ass kid rudeness.” In response, his father, in “a rare blast of temper,” The Journal wrote, threw a glass of water in his son’s face.
Young Bill was taken to a therapist, who advised his parents to ease off on discipline. They sent him to Lakeside, a private prep school in Seattle, where he had access to computers. There he met Paul Allen, a student computer whiz.
Years later, the parents acquiesced when Bill quit Harvard and moved to Albuquerque, where he and Mr. Allen founded Microsoft in 1975.
Microsoft grew into the world’s largest personal computer software company. Its 1986 public offering turned its founders into billionaires and 12,000 employees into millionaires. It became one of America’s most valuable publicly traded companies — the third, after Apple and Amazon, to reach the magical trillion-dollar market capitalization.