Dad's spirit is now flying free, soaring with the angels. William L. Strahan, 101, passed away peacefully just before midnight on Saturday, November 23, 2019 at Platte County Legacy Home in Wheatland, Wyoming.
Bill was a quiet and humble hero who was known for his wonderful smile. He was deeply spiritual, and he prayed for us every day. He was a purely good and kind man who helped people with no expectations of anything in return. Mom always said that his worst fault was that he used too much toothpaste. But hey, he still had all his own teeth at age 101!
He was an amazing man who lived an extraordinary life: Bill was born in Wadsworth, Illinois on Friday, March 8, 1918, the son of John and Elizabeth (Hogan) Strahan. He could remember riding in his grandparents’ horse & buggy as a small child. He played Big 10 football for the Wisconsin Badgers (tackle). At the University of Illinois, Bill was a catcher for varsity baseball. He was a Naval Aviator who flew dive-bombers during two tours of duty in WWII. His Carrier Air Group 11 first flew their bombing missions from Guadalcanal after their assigned aircraft carrier, USS Hornet (CV8), was sunk. It was there that he contracted malaria, which plagued him several times in his life. Air Group Eleven then flew off the second USS Hornet (CV12) aircraft carrier in the Pacific—during which time Bill earned The Distinguished Flying Cross, three air medals, and Purple Heart. The USS Hornet and Carrier Air Group 11 were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. He then served as carrier flight training officer during the Korean War timeframe.
In 1946, he married Grace King (also from Wadsworth). In 1953, when Bill and Grace were expecting the fifth child, Bill left the Navy at the rank of Lieutenant Commander to honor the request of family so that his children could live close to both sets of grandparents in the Midwest. His degree was in Agriculture, and he went into dairy and crop farming. He also did soil analysis and topography maps for the University of Illinois Extension Service to aid farmers in crop rotation. He worked for Investors Diversified Services, and he was a realtor in Illinois and Wisconsin. In 1987, at age 69, Bill joined the U.S. Peace Corps and served in Nepal as a Crop Extension Specialist. During those years, Bill and Grace raised eight kids.
Bill & Grace Strahan later resided in Wisconsin for many years until moving to Chugwater, Wyoming in 2008, expecting to live a quiet life of retirement. Bill was in for a few surprises, though…. In 2011 at the age of 93, Bill went on the “Honor Flight” for Wyoming WWII veterans, from Cheyenne to Washington, DC. It was an unforgettable and uplifting experience that went way beyond his expectations. Bill could have never imagined that, in 2014 at age 96, he would become a movie star! He was filmed for a WWII documentary about his Air Group Eleven, directed by George Retelas. Bill appears in the movie trailer on the home page of ELEVEN the movie website: http://www.eleventhemovie.com/. Some of his WWII artifacts and his white uniform (that he was wearing when pictured on the cover of the DVD/Blu-ray pack) are permanently on display in an Air Group Eleven exhibit (https://www.eleventhemovie.com/exhibit) aboard the USS Hornet, now a floating museum in Alameda, California (https://www.facebook.com/usshornetmuseum/).
His was indeed a life well-lived, a life of honor. Bill’s size 16+ feet have left indelible footprints upon this earth. People who knew him will never forget him. His departure has left a huge void, which is not actually empty… it is filled with inspiration, love, and wonderful memories in the hearts of those he left behind. We were so blessed to have him in our lives.
He is survived by his wife, Grace of Chugwater. Also surviving are his children, Kathleen Strom of Chugwater, Joel Strahan of Bristol, Wisconsin, Janet Haley of Libertyville, Illinois, Priscilla Smith of Pueblo, Colorado, Paul Strahan of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Will (Jana) Strahan of Chugwater, Jonathan Strahan of Gurnee, Illinois; eleven grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. His son, Gary, preceded him in death in 2012.
Bill is being cremated. Announcements will be made for services next spring in Illinois. Inurnment will be at Hickory Union Cemetery at 19300 West Edwards Road, Antioch, Illinois.
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