ST. LOUIS — William "Bill" Haas, the perennial St. Louis political candidate who frequently sparked controversy with his words and deeds, died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack. He was 76.
Haas was only ever elected to the St. Louis School Board but ran multiple times for mayor of St. Louis, the Missouri Legislature and Congress, and also for lieutenant governor, U.S. president and city alderman. His name will appear on Tuesday's ballot as a candidate for St. Louis School Board.
He was remembered by his employer, the Gateway Legacy Christian Academy, in a Facebook post Thursday as a "wonderful math teacher."
"Mr. Haas brought such joy and laughter everywhere he went. He was such a light to our campus," the school said.
Haas enjoyed swimming and was in the pool at the Heights Community Center in Richmond Heights about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday when he suddenly stopped swimming. Cindy Martello, who was exercising in the lane next to him, immediately summoned lifeguards, who administered CPR, Martello said.
Martello said Haas was well known at the pool, not only as a regular but for what he would say when his time in the lap lane was up. “When his time drew near the end," she said, he would call out, "'Just one more lap.' And that was his motto.”
“You just knew he was going to do one more lap,” she said.
Richmond Heights police Capt. Joe Zimmermann on Friday confirmed that police went to the community center for a medical aid call involving Haas.
Born in the Cleveland area, Haas graduated from Yale University with a degree in English before joining the volunteer anti-poverty program VISTA, a domestic version of the Peace Corps.
Haas once said VISTA piqued his interest in politics.
He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972.
In 1977, he worked for former Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich and later ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Cleveland School Board and the City Council before moving to St. Louis in the early 1990s. He started his political career here by running for circuit attorney.
The one-time corporate attorney would later work as a teacher, swim coach, tutor and customer service representative.
Haas also wrote a book, "Pink Collar Blue," described as a love story in which a politician meets a "pink collar upwardly mobile middle-class advertising assistant" who hates politics. "They do not live happily ever after," the book's website says.
In 2005, he talked in an online diary of euthanizing his pets and ending his own life, citing loneliness and financial trouble, before retracting the threat.
In August, he fell short in a six-person Democratic primary for the 5th state Senate District.
The Missouri Democratic Party called on Haas to discontinue his campaign in June after a state party official complained about Haas. Rachel Gonzalez said Haas messaged her asking if she had a boyfriend and whether she was alone, and called her "pretty." Gonzalez called the messages "creepy," pointed out other troubling social media posts by Haas and said others had also reported similar incidents.
The party barred him from an online debate in July.
Haas denied any wrongdoing and said he had suspended his Twitter account, but later resumed tweeting.
In January, he filed to run again for the St. Louis School Board.
Haas spoke to the Post-Dispatch in 2017 during an unsuccessful run for St. Louis mayor. He talked of the “song in his heart,” what he called his quest to be a player in politics.
“I don’t intend to die with my song for public service still inside me,” he said. “I think it’s healthy to follow your dreams, and I know I have something to contribute.”