WARREN, WILLIAM W. (Bill), 1921-2021, age 99.5, an extraordinary, ordinary man. Bill was a great storyteller, a kind and gentle man, full of wit and wisdom and the best husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, son, brother and uncle his family could have ever wanted. He was gifted in the way he encouraged others and instilled confidence in them. He was intellectually and practically curious and was often heard saying,”I don’t know but let’s try it.”
He grew up in Danville, Virginia in a large family where everyone had to pitch in to make ends meet. He was a hard worker, having started work at the tender age of 4 carrying milk bottles, one at a time, from the dairy farm down the street to the neighbors’ homes; his pay came in the form of milk for the family. Later he delivered newspapers. It was on his newspaper route that he memorized poetry, one stanza per day resulting in a large repertoire of poems which he was still reciting even as late as the day before his passing. Danville was a mill town and though he did not like it, he worked in the cotton mill to help his family. He was a high school football star and was nicknamed Wally “the Whizzer” Warren because he maneuvered so well on the field. His athleticism served him well throughout his life.
After high school he set out for the University of Alabama and made the football team taxi squad. Shortly after enrolling, like so many young men of this greatest generation, he enlisted in the navy and served in the Pacific Theater in World War II.
After serving his country, he began working with weather balloon data for United Airlines in Japan. He returned to the U.S. and began working for the Weather Bureau at Washington National Airport then made a move to work for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. all the while pursuing his college degree. No doubt his time working with weather balloons and the weather bureau contributed to his life-long love of aviation and cloud formations. He also loved mathematics, engineering and aviation and went to work for the Glenn L. Martin Co. (now Lockheed Martin) in the early 1950’s where he worked on many exciting and varied projects until he retired in 1988.
He met his future wife, Betty, at the Martin Company. They were considering getting married when he was deployed with the 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron to Bitburg, Germany. Several months later, after missing each other very much, Betty joined him in Germany where they were married in 1954. Shortly thereafter, Bill’s squadron deployed to Libya for training. Bill says that when he left Germany he worried about Betty being alone in a new country but when he came back, it was as if she had lived there all her life. Their time in Germany was a great foundation for their marriage.
After their tour in Germany, Bill was transferred to the Army Proving Grounds in White Sands, New Mexico, where Bill was the engineer responsible for preparing missiles for launch and then launching them. He loved his job and found it very gratifying to see the missiles fly. He and Betty loved living in New Mexico.
When that work program was over they transferred to Orlando in 1958 where the Martin Company had moved its headquarters in the mid-50’s. Bill and Betty settled in Winter Park, Florida, a marvelous place in which to raise their two daughters, Linda and Nancy. Throughout his adult life Bill continued to pursue his college degree attending the University of Alabama, Austin Peay University, and George Washington University, finally graduating from Rollins College in the early 60’s (yet another benefit of living in Winter Park). His daughters remember being so excited to give him his college ring that Betty let them wrap the ring in aluminum foil and bake it in a cake they made to surprise Bill as part of his graduation celebration.
Bill and Betty were friendly people and very well liked by their daughters’ friends; their home was always open to them. Bill told stories, provided adventures and took everyone to the Dairy Queen. Bill was one of the first people to get a Volkswagen Beetle in the neighborhood in 1963 further solidifying him as the coolest Dad in the area.
Bill became a first time grandfather at the age of 82 and he doted on his grandsons and his granddaughter. They brought him and Betty great joy and gave him reasons to go on living after Betty passed in 2008. He provided many an adventure for his grandchildren and they always knew they would get in to something fun when YaYa was around.
While math and engineering had always been his passion, Bill discovered a love of reading in his early 90’s and he always had a book in hand. When he suffered a stroke in 2016, it left him physically impaired but his mind remained sharp. It became hard for him to hold a book so his family began reading to him; they read many books together that his family might not have ever read without him and they feel blessed to have shared this special time with him. After the stroke, he was also bed-bound and wheel-chair bound but he took it like a champ and continued to be kind and encouraging to everyone with whom he came in contact. So many of his caregivers at the facility have told his family how smart, funny and encouraging he was to them. They said even when he was a little grumpy he would still remember to thank them for helping him.
Prior to COVID, with family and friends caring for him, in addition to the staff at the facility, Bill likely did not realize the true extent of his physical impairments from the stroke. But due to being isolated from family for over six months in 2020, he finally realized the extent of his impairment which affected him deeply. Despite being on the Alexa EchoShow every day, Zoom weekly, and regular window visits for the first 4 months of the 6 month quarantine, Bill suffered emotionally and cognitively from the separation and never fully recovered from it. Even after “one essential caregiver” was allowed in to see him five months ago, he was still confined to his room and not able to go outside, adding to the toll. Prior to the isolation, one of his goals was to reach 100. As the isolation progressed, he never talked about reaching 100 again. He passed 6 months shy of his 100th.
Though this last chapter was very sad because of the COVID isolation, his family is forever blessed to have had him in their lives for so long. He was a great example for all of them and his legacy will continue on.
Bill’s beloved wife Betty passed in 2008. Bill is survived by his daughters, Linda and Nancy. Linda still lives in Winter Park and Nancy is not far away in Windermere. The girls were able to be with Bill in the days leading up to his passing and all day the day he passed. He is also survived by his sons-in-law, Jeff Prickett (Linda) and Greg Wright (Nancy) and his teenage grandchildren, Zachary, Sashi and Noah Wright, all of whom adore their YaYa.
Bill was the 6th of 7 children. His parents, Major Robert and Clara Belle Warren and his siblings Evelyn, Edna Mae, Robert, Dorothy, and Charlie pre-deceased him. He is survived by his younger sister, Bobbie Hyatt and his sister-in-law, Laura Mayo Warren.
Newcomer Funeral Home of Winter Park is handling immediate arrangements. The family expects to hold a celebration of life at a future date and will announce details.