William Gommel

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Brigadier General William "Bill" Gommel

89, passed away May 13, 2014, in Greenwood, Indiana. Bill was born in Indianapolis on August 16, 1924. He was preceded in death by his wife, Vivian (Pherigo); parents, Dewey Ezra and Joy Agnes (Edie) Gommel; and brother, Hugh Eugene Gommel. He is survived by sister, Margaret (Walter) Jurkiewicz; daughters, Angeline (Steven) O'Malley of Lexington, Kentucky, Virginia (David) Harris of Huntington Beach, California, Ruth (Stephen) Williams of Noblesville, Indiana; 11 grandchildren; and 6 great-grandchildren.

Bill attended School 21 and Arsenal Technical High School, where he was awarded the Faculty Scholarship Medal upon graduation in 1942. He attended Purdue University before enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps during WWII. He married Vivian in 1943. They met in the Cradle Roll class at First Evangelical (the former Lockerbie Central United Methodist) Church. Throughout their lives, they traveled extensively around the world.

His Air Force assignments ranged from pilot trainee in Panama City Beach, Florida, weather forecaster in the Aleutian Islands and Anchorage, Alaska, to military governor in Neu Isenburg, Germany, to staff scientist at the Pentagon. While in Alaska, he prepared the in-flight Arctic weather forecasts for the record-breaking flights of the US Navy's Truculent Turtle, the Air Force's Dreamboat, and round-the-world Reynold's Bombshell solo flight by the late Bill Odom. In the early 1960s, he developed the Atlas Centaur launch system for the first geosynchronous satellite for storm tracking, communications, and later, intelligence.

He retired from the Air Force in 1965 and changed careers, serving as Chairman of Earth and Space Sciences and Director of the Noblitt Observatory at the University of Indianapolis (then, Indiana Central College). He taught higher mathematics, human geography, astronomy, and a popular earth sciences field studies course. He earned a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from Purdue University in 1973.

After retiring from the University in 1992, Bill was designated a Professor Emeritus, subsequently joined the Indiana Air Guard Reserve with the rank of Colonel as Director of Training, and then served as Commander, retiring in 1997 with the rank of Brigadier General.

He was one of the founding officers of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., named a Fellow of the Indiana Academy of Sciences, received the Indiana Distinguished Service Medal, awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana governor Frank O'Bannon, and commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Kentucky governor Martha Layne Collins. He served as director of the Central Indiana Science and Engineering Fair for several years.

Bill was involved in many other activities and organizations, including several Masonic and Scottish Rite affiliations. He was a founding member and officer of the Century Lodge, served as Thrice Potent Master and Treasurer of the Indianapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite, and received an honorary 33rd Degree from the Scottish Rite.

He loved downhill skiing, bowling, traveling, church, and singing. He was an active member of the choir at University Heights United Methodist Church, Scottish Rite Chorus, and other ensembles. He taught Sunday School at all levels, lead church youth groups, and served on the Pastor-Parish Committee and Administrative Board. He took the youth group on a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail shortly after its designation as a national trail. His overarching passion throughout his life was education. He loved to learn, and he loved to teach.

Funeral services will be conducted on Saturday, May 17, at Singleton Community Mortuary and Memorial Center , 7602 South Madison Avenue, 11:00 a.m. Visitation will be Friday, May 16, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., also at Singleton Community Mortuary and Memorial Center. Memorial contributions may be made to the Indianapolis Valley of the Scottish Rite or to University Heights United Methodist Church. Online condolences may be offered to the family at http://www.singletonmortuary.com

Funeral Home
Singleton Community Mortuary and Memorial Center
7602 Madison Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46227
(317) 885-7585
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Published in the The Indianapolis Star on May 15, 2014
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