Bill Deaton, 95, died peacefully at his home on Vashon Island, Washington, on October 14, 2013.
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Bill's amazing life began June 28, 1918, in Winder. He was the penultimate of twelve brothers and sisters, and grew up during the Great Depression on the farm leased by parents James Marion and Mirtie Verona (Williams) Deaton.
He is unanimously remembered for his quiet, unflinching work ethic. Bill once confided that the proudest moment of his early life was being tall enough to drive the team of mules that plowed his family's fields. In later life, his only regret was a gradual inability to work from sunup until sundown, as was his custom. Bill never lost the love of agriculture that was instilled at a young age. Every year, the gardens of friends and relatives were richly populated by the hundreds of tomato starts that burst from Bill's greenhouse. The flowers and vegetables nurtured by his hands made the world greener, brighter and healthier.
Bill's life was profoundly changed when, at the age of 22, he made a leap of faith and geography, following older brother Roscoe to Southern California. He left work in the orange groves of Northern Florida on the assurance that jobs were plentiful in California. Not true, of course, but Bill took every opportunity that came his way and worked hard. His brother's wife had a sister, Floy Elise Clack, who had also immigrated from Winder, in search of opportunity. She and Bill married in August 1941.
Like so many others, Bill attempted to enlist after Pearl Harbor, but was turned down because an early farming accident cost him the use of one eye. He was eventually drafted and served honorably in the Army Air Corp. from January 1943 until December 1945. Bill raised his two children with patience, humor and respect. Though never blessed with an abundance of money, he took his family camping and fishing, and instilled in his children a belief that, through hard work, anything was possible. Together, Bill and Floy called many places home, including Whittier, Redlands, Garden Grove and Atascadero, CA; Rogue River, OR; and Marysville, WA. Floy preceded him in death in 1986.
Beginning on a sharecropper's farm hit by the Great Depression, Bill's life intersected with history, in moments both profound and humorous. While stationed at Hobbs Army Airfield in New Mexico, he unwittingly viewed the Manhattan Project's first atomic explosion, from the nose cone of a B-17 bomber in flight. After the war, while working for a dairy, he made the first delivery of milk to a fledgling restaurant known as McDonald's. Once, while driving a tanker truck full of milk down a Los Angeles freeway, a crate fell from the truck in front of him. Bill knew it was too dangerous to swerve, so he hit the crate head-on and watched incredulously as thousands of Oreo cookies rained down on his milk truck.
Above all, Bill is remembered as kind and generous. He personified an era where helping one's neighbor was simply a requirement of humanity. In his final years, Bill lived comfortably in the home he shared with daughter Linda, surrounded by loved ones who listened with rapt amazement to the stories about his life. Invariably, they would ask with a tacit wink when a certain event occurred, because his answer was always astoundingly precise. "That was about November or October - 1927," was a typical response.
He is survived by: his children, Larry (Marilyn) and Linda; his grandchildren, Billy (Marnie), Jason (Beth), Greg (Natalie) and Bryan (Laura); 11 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild. Although outliving all of his brothers and sisters, he is survived by numerous loving nieces and nephews.
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, October 26 at 11:30 a.m., at the Burton Community Church on Vashon Island, WA. A separate graveside service will be held on November 12, at 11 a.m., at the Chapel Church in Winder, where he will be forever reunited with Floy.
The family suggests that memorials be made to Providence Hospice of Seattle, 425 Pontius Ave. N., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98109.
Please visit the online guest book at www.islandfuneral.com for more information. You will be missed, Papa Bill.
Island Funeral Service of Vashon, WA is in charge of arrangements.
Published in BarrowCountyNews from Oct. 18 to Nov. 17, 2013