Willard "Will" Fiddler, age 88, a resident of Westlake Woods Assisted Living, joined his wife and siblings and the Communion of Saints at a heavenly welcoming on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2013 after a long and well lived life.
Willard was born in Westville, Pa., March 7, 1925, the son of the late Elmer and Helene Martinson Fiddler.
Will left Strong Vincent High School in April of 1943 to enlist in the Army
at the age of 18 during World War II.
He was a paratrooper with the 17th Airborne, 194th Glider Infantry Regiment where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and made the final push to cross the Rhine into Germany and ultimately Berlin, where he joined the 82nd Airborne. Will was wounded in action March 24, 1945 in Germany crossing the Rhine in a glider, and is a Purple Heart
recipient. Other decorations and citations are the Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal, and the EAME THR Service Medal with 3 Bronze stars
, among others. Will was honorably discharged in January of 1946 and reenlisted during the Korean Conflict. He achieved the rank of Master Sergeant.
Will finished high school upon his return, and studied further at both Grove City College and the Indiana University of PA.
Will loved his family and attended as many of their activities as he could. Will was also very active in both church and community affairs. Will was a charter member and Past President of the Presque Isle Rotary, participated in Toastmasters, the Erie County Environmental Coalition, Millcreek Long Range Planning, volunteered at Asbury Woods Nature Center, the Community Country Day School, and was active in numerous political campaigns of those he supported. As a loyal, lifelong member of Lakewood United Methodist Church, Will served on many committees over the years including PPR, Membership, Lay Leader, Stewardship, CROP Walk, served as a Sunday School teacher and Youth Group leader.
Willard was in purchasing or sales his entire life, first "peddling newspapers" in Philipsburg, Pa., then selling household medicine door-to-door for McCrory's Five and Dime, where he earned two bicycles. He was called Doc Fiddler at that time. After the war, Will worked at Hayes Manufacturing where his sister Doris introduced him to "the best thing that ever happened to me", his future wife, Nelda Jones.
He and his family lived in Traverse City, Mich. for a few years in the early 50s where he was in purchasing and then returned to work at Swanson Erie for 18 years in sales management/purchasing agent. He left there to start his own independent Manufacturer's Representative business, Associated Companies. He was active with this business well into his 80s, and never wanted to retire.
Will loved life, his family, his church, country and community. He was noted for his letter writing, and many of his notes to his family contain phrases such as "my family and friends are most responsible for my happiness", "love and good health to all of us working together", "I have a great life and know that when I die I will be happy". Until the end, he was ever the jokester and gentleman, polite to all his nurses at UPMC Hamot, even saying thank you after a finger prick, and always responding when asked how he felt, "oh great, thank you."
Will was proud of his family, his good grades in school, and his military service. A very proud moment was when he was able to pin his 82nd Airborne wings onto his grandson, SPC David Garnon, at David's 82nd Airborne graduation at Ft. Benning, Ga., June of 2010.
Along with his parents, Will was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Nelda Jones Fiddler on January 13, 2011; his baby sister, Helen; sister, Doris Stratton Schultz; and brothers, George, Lee and Harold Fiddler; and nephews, Scott, David and Dennis.
Willard is survived and will be greatly missed by his son, Jim and his wife, Lisa of Bigfork, Mont.; and daughter, Jackie Garnon and her husband, Fred of Erie. He is further loved and survived by three grandsons, Bradley Wilson and his wife, Kristen, Jovan Fiddler and SPC David Garnon and his wife, Candice; three granddaughters, Kimberly Garnon and her husband, Stephone, Jennifer Kreshone and her husband, Thad, and Karen Konhaus and her husband, Skip; along with ten great-grandchildren, twins Andrew and Bennett, Charlotte, Elyse, Bryce, Liam, Aidan, Ciara, Tarynn and Amber. Will is also survived by two sisters-in-law, Emma and Kitty and many special nephews and nieces who loved him dearly, and a special friend and helper, Rose Flak.
When asked several years ago in an interview by grandson, Bradley, how he would like to be remembered, Will said, "one who tried to help everyone en route." In keeping with that philosophy, Will's last helping act was to donate his brain to research at Boston University, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Friends may call at the Burton Westlake Funeral Home, 3801 West 26th Street (at Powell Ave.) on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and are invited to the funeral service on Saturday at Lakewood United Methodist Church, 3856 West 10th Street, at 11 a.m. with Reverend Robert Lewis and Pastor Brian Kiehl officiating.
The service will conclude with military honors with grandson, SPC David Garnon, great-nephew, Maj. Kraig Kiehl and his wife, Capt. Renae Kluk Kiehl, participating.
Memorials may be made to Lakewood United Methodist Church, 3856 West 10th Street, Erie, PA 16505; the Erie United Methodist Alliance, 1033 East 26th Street, Erie, PA 16504; or the Erie Playhouse, 13 West 10th Street, Erie, PA 16501.
Published in the Erie Times-News from Jan. 2 to Jan. 3, 2014