The sign on the Canyon Lake Equestrian center barn reads, “The William J. ‘Billy’ Fodor Jr. Equestrian Facility.” Who is Billy Fodor and why was the barn named after him?
Billy, son of Canyon Lake residents Kathy Bacon and William Foder, was killed in an off-road practice race near Barstow on August 2, 2000. He was 37 years old. His uncle, Richard Fodor, also perished in the accident. For William, it was the day he lost his only son and only sibling.
Billy’s father-in-law, Jerry Fransciso, owned Francisco Custom Pipe, a company in Wildomar that designs and builds custom barns and buildings. Billy’s parents also worked there. His father ran operations and his mother was the bookkeeper.
Billy had graduated from UCI and was living in Irvine waiting to be accepted for a job as an engineer with Waste Management when his father-in-law had a heart attack. “Billy came back to help his father-in-law with the family business and never left,” said William. A few years later Billy bought Francisco Custom Pipe from his father-in-law and renamed it FCP.
“Billy was really good at his job,” said William. “He was a wiz at running FCP. Probably 85 to 95 percent of the jobs they got were because of Billy. He would get big jobs too.” Together, Billy and William worked for some notable people. Among them were Michael Jackson and Wayne Newton.
“We built all the barns, cages and covers for Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, a great big barn in Hawaii for Princess Abigail Kawanakoa and a barn in Las Vegas for singer Wayne Newton’s Arabian horses,” said William.
Billy and William Sr. also built many of the covers in Canyon Lake, including the dugout covers at Gault Field, the gas tank covers at Happy Camp and many of the covers on the private docks around the lake. William Sr. also served on the Canyon Lake Architectural Control Committee (ACC) for 13 years.
On Saturday, July 30, 2000, Billy was in an off-road race in Las Vegas in which he placed 1st in his class and 2nd overall. On Wednesday, August, 2, the day Billy lost his life, he was practicing for an off-road race that was scheduled for the following Saturday. Billy was driving and his uncle was in the passenger seat during the practice run.
William explains how the tragic event occurred. “They were driving in the sand wash for about a minute when a trophy truck coming the wrong way at 130 miles per hour hit them head-on. Billy was killed instantly. I was supposed to be driving with Billy that day. I would have been sitting where my brother was sitting. Billy was crushed on the driver’s side and the car was completely gone on the passenger side where my brother was. My brother was alive just long enough to radio his son Mark to tell him that he loved him. When we arrived on the scene a few minutes later, both of them had already passed away. I closed my son’s eyes for the last time that day.”
William said his son was a good-natured guy who enjoyed surfing, sailing, water skiing, snow skiing and off-road racing. “He really enjoyed life and did everything he loved to do,” said William.
Billy’s family had his ashes spread in the ocean in Hawaii from a yacht owned by the son of Princess Abigail, a Fodor family friend. “We spread his ashes there because that’s where he wanted to be. He sailed in five TransPac yacht races, he loved sailing and had been to that very spot before,” said William.
In 2001, the Canyon Lake Equestrian Center needed to be torn down and replaced with a new one. “The old barn was made out of telephone poles. It was infested with termites. The termites ate so much of the poles that the barn was getting shorter and shorter,” said William.
William submitted a bid on behalf of FCP, the company Billy purchased from his father-in-law. FCP was awarded the contract and the new barn was built in November 2001. William was in charge of the project. According to William, the sign that hangs on the barn today with Billy’s name on it was made by the same company that made the Canyon Lake street signs.
The barn dedication and re-opening ceremony took place on April 21, 2002, nearly two years after Billy passed away. Billy’s parents, siblings, wife and children were all in attendance. The Board of Directors at the time decided to dedicate the new barn in Billy’s name because of the contributions he and William made to the community throughout the years, and because they were part of the committee that found a way to get the new barn built at a reasonable cost.
Billy, his wife Debbie and their children Erin and Ryan were living in Canyon Lake on San Joaquin Dr. at the time of his accident. Debbie and the children moved to Temecula after his passing. Billy’s parents, who moved to Canyon Lake in 1978, are divorced now but are still living in Canyon Lake.