Bill Groepper was born Jan. 24, 1924 in Iowa to William Henry and Mildred (Best) Groepper. Bill attended Avoca High School and worked various farming jobs in the summer. When war broke out, Bill enlisted in the Navy and was sent to the Great Lakes Navy training center where he learned to become a tail gunner on a TBM torpedo plane. Bill saw extensive action in the Pacific flying off the aircraft carrier USS Cabot and his plane was involved in scoring a direct torpedo hit on the Japanese ship the Yamamoto along with numerous other combat missions.
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After the war, Bill persuaded his high school sweetheart Esther Holtz to marry him in 1945. Bill and Esther moved to Bozeman in 1947 and after briefly running a laundry on Main Street with his brother and wife, Bill became a sheet metal apprentice working for George English Sheet metal. Through the years Bill became a very accomplished "tin bender" and was active teaching his sons to hunt, fish and shoot, while coaching their efforts in little league and Babe Ruth baseball.
Bill's favorite pastimes were fishing, hunting and gardening, and talking about those pastimes with friends and neighbors. After Bill retired from the sheet metal trade, he took up his second career, driving cars for Simpson Honda, Ressler, and J.C. Billion. A one-day out and back trip to Salt Lake was no problem for a guy who loved to take a car trip anywhere. He also greatly enjoyed his annual reunion with squadron mates from the USS Cabot.
Bill's wife Esther passed away in 2008, and after going it alone for a while Bill moved into the Bozeman Lodge in 2010. Bill's daily routine was highlighted by daily visits from close friends Norma Ardesson and Lorna McCormack who were constant companions to his wife Esther and continued that tradition with Bill.
Bill was preceded in death by his brothers, Duane and Henry; and his sister, Virginia. His remaining family includes his sons and wives, Gregg and Julie in McAllen, Texas; Jay and Cindy in Spokane, Wash., and daughter, Debra and her husband Brad in Heath, Texas. Bill also has four married grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren and a grand-dog.
No memorial services are planned at this time. In lieu of flowers, a donation in Bill's name may be sent to the Bozeman Deaconess Foundation, memo line: hospice, 391 Highland Blvd, Suite 3200,Bozeman, MT 59715, or the Pioneer Museum, 317 W. Main, Bozeman, MT 59715.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Mar. 25, 2012