After surviving Air Force crash in 1945, Manor resident enjoys 71 years of marriage

It was January 1945 and Bill was preparing to head off to New Guinea in the Pacific Theatre with the Air Force. He had been stationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and was awaiting his call when a plane in which he was flying crashed during a training exercise.

“I spent my last two years in the hospital. I broke my neck,” Bill said. The pilot of their B-20 (it was a new aircraft still being tested for live action) died in the crash; Bill and the other gunner survived. “I was in five different hospitals. I just went from one place to another, and I was in a full-body cast for a while. Then I had to be in braces and all that sort of stuff.”

Bill was fortunate to survive that crash. Shortly after that, he married Lil, his high school sweetheart. They have been married for 71 years.

Growing up in Canada, then in Lathrup

When he was quite young, Bill and his family moved from Canada and settled in Lathrup. At the time, the new community was quite rural and not overly populated.

“When I lived there, Lathrup had maybe a dozen homes in the whole place,” he said. “It was quite different than it is now.

“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. The name of the high school was Log Cabin, it was on Livernois just south of 15 Mile Road. I think it’s a Wendy’s now. But that’s where we met in high school. The high school was one building, probably less than 100 people, kindergarten through high school. There were 13 in our class, and we were two of them.”

Bill joined the Air Force right out of high school during the height of World War II. After the war and his lengthy hospitalization, he worked for Chrysler.

“I was a finance analyst, after working on the trim line in the truck plant,” he said. “My dad worked for Chrysler, he got me in there. That was in Highland Park. But now, there’s not one building left that used to be there. They’re all gone.”

Family life and later years

Bill and Lil have three children, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren. It’s convenient as one of their daughter’s lives nearby, in Royal Oak. Their other children live in Chicago and Arizona, where they have both traveled several times.

Travel is something they have enjoyed as a couple.

“We did a lot of traveling with a group after I retired, bus tours and stuff like that,” he said. “And we’ve been over to England and Germany a couple times. I have enjoyed traveling.”

The idea of being married 71 years is pretty remarkable. He said he doesn’t have the secret to a long, happy marriage – but he said there are a few things worth remembering.

“There’s give and take, that’s all there is,” he said. “You’re not going to be right all the time, but you’re not going to be wrong all the time, either.”

After living in Fraser, Bill and Lil moved to Oakmont Manor seven years ago.

“We have entertainment here once or twice a week, and we like going to that. It’s a lot of fun,” Lil said.

“We enjoy it here,” Bill said. “They do a lot for us and we enjoy ourselves.”