George William "Bill" CRISS Jr.

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CRISS, Col. George William Jr."Bill" passed away peacefully at home Nov. 26, 2012, in Stanardsville, VA. He was born in 1919 in Brooklyn, NY to Lillian (Larkin) and George W. Criss Sr. Towards the end of his life he was surrounded by family, his daughter, Dr. Lee Crigler and husband Ron of Madison, VA; his son, Colonel Bill Criss III and his wife, Judy, of Woodbridge, VA, and by a group of devoted caregivers, many who had lovingly cared for his wife, Kae Anne, prior to her passing two years ago. A life-long military man, Bill graduated from Peekskill Military Academy and then enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He won an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he was a star lacrosse player and his swimming records remained unbroken for over a decade. His was the first class with some cadets earning pilot wings which took him from the Point for a half year. Due to this, and the urgency of war, he was denied his much anticipated senior year. He and Kae Anne were married at West Point the day following graduation and commissioning in January 1943. They had grown up as schoolmates in Flatbush. After bomber training in Washington State and Oklahoma, where daughter Lee was born, Bill was then sent to the Pacific to fly, and later lead, B-29 missions. Following the war, Kae and Bill were stationed in Tampa, where son Bill III was born. The heat and bugs made them promise never to return, but they did. His USAF peacetime assignments took the family to New York State, Langley AFB, Washington DC, Lima, Peru, Tennessee, the Canal Zone, Panama and Texas. He also logged hundreds of additional combat hours during the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts. Stories of his flying skill, leadership and bravery are many, as are the memories of the couple's warmth, hospitality, dancing and support for scouting, teenager activities and many charities. His military decorations included the Legion of Merit (1 OLC), Distinguished Flying Cross (1 OLC) and the Air Medal (3 OLCs). He also threw out the first pitch at, or into, the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field, from a low-flying B-25. After 33 years of military service, he and Kae toured the country and then finally settled for the next 25 years at Coffee Pot bayou, St. Petersburg, what a difference air conditioning makes. There they were active in retired military and model airplane activities and frequent visitors to the El Cap Pub. For two decades, they made annual trips in their beloved motor home to visit friends and family. Due to medical issues, they moved north to Stanardsville, VA in 2003, with Kae in a nursing home and Bill in a cottage right across the street. They visited each other daily until her passing in early 2011. In addition to his daughter and son, he is survived by two grandchildren, Missy and her husband Jeff Hildebrand their daughters Riley and Madeline; and Bill IV his wife Erin Criss and their daughters Michaela and Hailey. A memorial service will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Stanardsville, VA at 4 pm on Jan. 12, 2013. Col. and Mrs. Criss ashes will be interred at West Point at a future date.

Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Dec. 9, 2012
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