June 30, 1928 - March 28, 2015
Austin, Texas | Age 86
Bill Bailey took his last flight and sailed into heaven March 28, 2015. William Bryant "Bill" Bailey (Major, USAF Retired) died peacefully at home surrounded by love.
Bill was born June 30, 1928 in Buffalo, New York to Roland G. and Esther Bailey. He spent most of his youth in Westfield, New Jersey. He was a curious and adventuresome child, characteristics he kept throughout his life. His curiosity landed him in boarding school after an experiment gone wrong blew up his father's victory garden and his mother caught him trying to save the cat population by learning how to perform feline appendectomies.
After graduating from Loomis military academy, Bill's quest for adventure took him to the Merchant Marines. However, not to be deterred by being too young to join, he simply lied about his age. Bill soon realized if he was going to get anywhere he needed to return to school for a real degree. Maine Maritime academy was his school of choice and gave him the opportunity to see the world on a training ship. Upon graduation in 1950, he joined the Air Force, was commissioned an officer and found his true love – flying. Bill attended flight school in Hondo Texas, where he earned his wings but wreaked havoc by buzzing the local schools and setting off air attack alarms. Among his flying accomplishments were breaking the sound barrier and serving in the Korean and Viet Nam wars as a fighter pilot, flying over 200 missions, 134 of them in an F-100. Bill was a proud member of the Red River Rats and Black Sheep squadrons. Among his many medals and recognitions were the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal. Both the United States and Mexico recognized him for his organization of the air lift missions to south Texas and Mexico after Hurricane Beulah. Bill was also an honorary member of the Thai Royal Air force.
While stationed at Bergstrom Air force base in Austin Texas he fell for a University of Texas coed, Amba Manning. The story is he and his best pal decided to trade girlfriends and ultimately both married the other's gal. Bill and Amba eloped to Montgomery, Alabama and immediately started a family. Their children's births told the story of life in the Air force as they moved many times in their early marriage. Virginia was born in Austin, Heather and Sidney in Japan, Brooke in El Paso, Brianne in Phoenix and John in Ft. Hood. During Bill's last of 3 tours to Viet Nam, Amba moved the family back to her hometown of Austin, where they all eventually settled. Bill retired from the Air force in 1970 and began civilian life working in real estate, personnel and safety management, and manufacturing. He retired for the second and final time from IBM in 1992.
Bill and Amba divorced in 1976 and he enjoyed the single life for a few years. Lake Travis was home to Bill's second passion, sailing, where you could find him nearly any evening or weekend. In 1985 he met his second and final true love, June Cline at a TGI Friday's in Austin. They were married July 1987 and have shared a life of adventure. Upon retirement they were active sailing and RV'ing across the United States. When driving the RV became too difficult they set up a second home in Rockport, Texas. The Texas coast was a special place for Bill and he went there every chance he could. They developed a close circle of dear friends who spent their winters in Texas.
Bill had wry wit and love of the English language. Notorious for correcting everyone's grammar, he loved getting a good laugh from playing jokes and telling stories. He taught his children the essential life skills of cheating at poker, playing pool and singing bad songs. His world travels took him to Japan, Thailand, England, Greece, Viet Nam, Turkey, Denmark, and too many other places to name – always looking for adventure and making friends. Bill was an amazing man, both as a pilot, father, and husband. He showed great courage and heroism in service to his country and throughout his life. Bill Bailey dearly loved his family and hosted the annual holiday Santa event at his house up to his death. His friends spanned all ages, as he had a gift for drawing folks to him, yet always staying in touch with his pals from Maine Maritime, flight school, and beyond. His lifelong love affair with music began as a young man when he hung around the Apollo listening to and meeting all the Jazz greats. Later he would take his family to the first Willie Nelson Picnics and he drew his last breath with Jazz in the background.
Bill is survived by his children and their spouses, Virginia Manning, Heather Bailey and David Maduzia, Sidney Bailey Hacker and Richard Hacker, Brooke Bailey and Rudy Garcia, John Roland Bailey, and Brianne Bailey, as well as grandchildren Lauren Bigley, Devon Bailey, Anna Hacker Downey, Bailey Shelton and Kye Maduzia. He is also survived by step children Steve Hammers and wife Eydie and their daughters, Jessica, Whitney Gordon, Tori, and Shawna and step daughter-in-law Mary Hammers (Billy, deceased) and their children, Meredith, Scott, and Michael.
He is also survived by his best friends Frank and Tammy Robin.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Air Warrior Courage Foundation (www.airwarriorcourage.com), a charity of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association.
Services will be Tuesday, April 7, 11 am at Anderson Mill Baptist Church, 10633 Lake Creek Parkway, Austin TX 78750. (512) 258-5843 Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org