After a decades-long bout with kidney disease, William Erwin Huntsha died on November 24, 2014, at the VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. He was 89 years old.
Both his loving wife "Lo" and his friends called him Bill. He was the youngest son of Gertrude and August Huntsha of Elmhurst, Illinois, who preceded him in death, as did his two older brothers, Jack (John) and Bob (Robert).
In 1943, Bill and all of his friends enlisted in the Armed Forces with delayed entry, so they could graduate from York High School. Bill trained to become a naval aviator, earned his wings, and flew the Douglas SBD and the Curtis SB2C, fearsome Navy dive bombers. On one occasion, he survived a bail-out situation when his left wing became separated from his plane by an instructor's plane performing a barrel roll. Bill kept his "pilot parachute," which opened as it was designed to do (thereby saving his life) in his dresser drawer until the day he died.
After the close of WWII, Bill entered Northwestern University under the GI Bill, and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Business. Bill worked for several corporations, large and small, during his business career, and also served the local community as a school board president. Bill was a good neighbor and had close, long-lasting relationships with his friends and neighbors. Bill was a scrupulously honest man, and those who worked for him knew him to be a manager with an open door policy, always businesslike yet compassionate, with a problem-solving, no-nonsense focus and style. Prior to retiring, Bill left the corporate world, and he and Lo purchased Reel Pro Video in Itasca, Illinois, a franchise business that specialized in transferring family and corporate films to videotape. Their venture surprised some family members, knowing Bill's motto: "When all else fails, read the instructions."
Before arthritis took away his ability to participate in fishing and golfing, Bill very much enjoyed those pursuits, which he practiced with abundant skill and passion. His wife was an avid gardener, and under Lo's careful and capable direction, Bill assisted her in creating, adding to, and moving a myriad of flower beds that were both beautiful and undeniably added color and enjoyment to their lives.
Bill was a kind and loving husband who was very much devoted to the love of his life, Lo. Thus, it broke his heart when, just recently, Lo was no longer able to live unassisted and moved into the Our House Memory Care Unit in the Wisconsin Dells. Bill was likewise a wonderful father and very much loved his three children, Thomas, James, and Mary, and their respective spouses, Aimee, Nancy, and Forrest. Bill was over the moon when he became a grandfather to Daniel Huntsha and subsequently his wife, Angelina; Sarah Huntsha Taylor and her husband, Timm; Stacey Huntsha; Lisa Huntsha; and Christy Melton. Bill was always delighted to be surrounded by his family at birthdays and other family events and gatherings, and loved his great-grandchildren, Shannen, Abi, Grace, Colin, Eden, Ally, Justin, and Adam Taylor.
Bill loved to tease his friends and be teased by his friends at Park Place in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, and was a constant fixture at the morning "coffee klatch." Of late, during a lengthy rehabilitation stay at a skilled nursing facility, his magic reset button was pushed every day and he only wanted to know two things: "Why am I here?" and "When am I going home?" All evidence to the contrary, Bill stayed positive to the end and held out hope that he was going to get better and go home, which did happen, if only for a short time.
Our family wishes to extend heartfelt thanks to the entire staff, professional therapists, nurses, and doctors who treated Bill at the Middleton VA Medical Center in Madison, the Wisconsin Dells Golden Living Center, and St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, for their professional and supportive care and wonderful treatment of our father. Also, our sister Mary was Dad's "Go-To Guy" and deserves abundant praise and thanks. Mary provided much loving care in addition to performing a myriad of tasks during a very difficult time. Bill's affectionate nickname was "Grumpy," and unfortunately he deserved this nickname a bit more than most of us cared to admit at the end. This was a symptom of his kidney failure and not a function of his character, which throughout his life was a fine example of a caring, loving, responsible, and decent man.
Bill Huntsha certainly earned and deserved his place as a member of "The Greatest Generation."
Requiescas in Pace, Papa.