Billy Ansel HeasleyLand O'Lakes, FL, 1926 - 2016 0comment
Billy Ansel Heasley passed away peacefully on Nov. 24, 2016, at Melech Hospice House, Tampa, at the age of 90.
He is preceded by his parents, W.R. and Mamie Heasley; four sisters, Velma McWilliams, Raye Mozelle Moralez, Doris Berry, and Carol Ann Heasley; and a brother, Carl Heasley. He is survived by a sister, Melba Heasley, his son and daughter-in-law, William and Rose Heasley, and daughter and son-in-law, Lynn
Heasley and Keith Brewster.
An Arkansas native, he grew up on a farm. As soon as he was of age, he followed his older brother into the US Navy in what turned out to be the closing days of WWII, serving on ships USS ANCON and USS Harry F. Bauer. He later used the GI Bill to earn his associate degree from the University of Arkansas while enjoying his free
time racing motorcycles on dirt tracks, tinkering with engines, and traveling with buddies. When the Korean War began and he heard the US Air Force was looking for pilots, he joined that branch of service under the promise if he passed pilot testing they would put him through the rest of college. After that war, he was stationed various places including several years at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, where he flew the B-47 Stratojet for the Strategic Air Command. In Tampa he also met his bride-to-be, Carol Gunn, a Tampa native. On their honeymoon the two drove cross country from Tampa to Seattle in an Austin Healey convertible towing a sailboat. Once settled, he continued his Air Force duties while attending the University of Washington for his bachelor's in engineering. A strong believer in the importance of education, he was the first in his family to complete college. In 1963 their son William was born and a few years later they were stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, where they welcomed their daughter Lynn. A skilled sailor, he competed in many regattas while stationed there. During the Viet Nam War, he flew the O-1 BirdDog as a forward air controller.
In 1970 he retired from a 20-year Air Force career at the rank of major, and the family moved to Land O' Lakes, FL, where Bill co-owned and was sole operator of Atwood Boats for five years. After the business closed, he was a long-haul truck owner/operator for a few years, until retiring for good and pursuing many ongoing projects, including restoring a sailboat, constructing a steel hanger, and building an ultralight airplane.
He also reconnected with his love of motorcycles and was the proud owner of a brand-new Harley Davidson, which saw a lot of use and was one of only two vehicles he ever bought new. A talented shade-tree mechanic, he always preferred spending his free hours buying deals that turned into projects he continually worked on,
usually with his son by his side. In the late 1970s, he was an early adopter of home computers. Throughout, he gifted his son with a priceless wealth of knowledge and skills in vehicle and home repair, boating, tech aptitude, and the general art of cando problem solving. That turned out to be a family trait, as among his daughter's favorite gifts as an adult are the many power tools he bought her and taught her to use, from the jigsaw to the power drill to the compound-sliding miter saw they picked out together.
As a parent, he gave his kids most necessities but few luxuries, believing strongly in the character-building aspects of learning to do without and working for what you have—a successful formula he honed first-hand as a child of the Depression, and proudly practiced all his life.
Bill was a self-made man and a defining member of America's Greatest Generation: Proud to serve, proud to be self-reliant, and determined to be debt-free. He defended America selflessly, loved his children deeply, and clung to his independence unfailingly. He was our hero and we will miss him always.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, at Blount & Curry Terrace Oaks, Tampa. The family will receive friends a half hour prior to the service. Donations may be made in Bill's memory to the Carol Gunn Heasley Memorial Scholarship (Fund 1690) at Pasco Hernando State College. www.phsc.edu/foundation/donate.
Published December 4, 2016
OBITUARY SUBMITTED BY:
391 Inverness Parkway, Suite 300-B, Englewood, CO