William "Bill" E. Howard of Concord, North Carolina, earned his wings on Saturday, March 12, 2016. Bill died of natural causes at PruittHealth-Town Center in Harrisburg, North Carolina. Just a week earlier, Bill celebrated his 93rd birthday with family and friends. Bill was born in Concord March 6, 1923, to the late Cyril and Mamie Howard.
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Bill was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 64 years, Sarah Jane, his son Bruce, and his sisters Seena Murr and Pearl Slough. Bill is survived by daughter Jane Conversano of Concord, North Carolina, her husband Mark, and sons Grant and Adam; son Stuart Howard of Helena, Montana, his wife Kim, and sons Russell and Jake; and daughter-in-law Andrea Carter of Salisbury, North Carolina, Bruce's wife.
Bill was the baby boy of the family, and was deservedly spoiled by his mother Mamie, and his sisters Seena and Pearl. He did not however inherit the fishing gene from his parents, who loved to fish so much that they had worm beds in their backyard and never had to buy bait. Bill never ate fish later in life, probably having eaten so much as a youngster. At the age of 15 he earned the Boy Scout rank of Eagle, his certificate signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1942, at age 19, he was one of 7 out of over 40 applicants that passed the U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet exam, which he credited to the practical knowledge he gained as a Boy Scout. Bill learned to fly in the Fairchild PT-23. Being too tall for a fighter pilot, he moved on to multi-engine training at Stuttgart, Arkansas, where he flew the Beechcraft AT-10 twin engine trainer, built primarily out of plywood since aluminum was scarce and being conserved for combat aircraft. At Stuttgart, Bill was selected to be a flight instructor, while most of his classmates proceeded to combat training. He eventually taught pilots to fly the heavy bombers such as the B-17, B-24, and B-25. He was destined for B-29 combat training when the war ended.
Even though he had offers to fly for the major airlines, Bill returned to Concord to work at the Coca-Cola plant where he eventually became manager and worked for over 40 years. He first set eyes on Sarah Jane Parcell at The Pine Tavern one evening after Sarah Jane's roommate urged her to go out, saying "You never know what will happen." Marriage happily ever after happened on August 5, 1950 and Bill traded his two war surplus airplanes (BT-13 and Howard DGA-15P) for diapers and household appliances. With three children arriving within a four-year span, Bill decided he needed extra income for future college expenses. He scavenged defunct ice plants for compressors, a West Virginia coal mine for pipes, and an out-of-business ice skating rink for ice skates and a skate sharpener. In 1962 Holiday Ice Rink opened in a former garage on Hwy. 29. Bill built a new building in Kannapolis, NC and opened the new location in 1967. For another 30 years Holiday Ice Rink offered a safe and fun environment for youngsters, teenagers, and adults. In 1996 Bill was inducted into the Ice Skating Institute Ice Skating Hall of Fame, whose inductees include Sona Henie, Peggy Fleming, and Gordie Howe.
In retirement, Bill and Sarah Jane enjoyed traveling, visiting Ireland, France, and making multiple trips to Montana and the western United States. Bill was also an active member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1083 in Salisbury, North Carolina. He enjoyed flying his Beechcraft Musketeer well into his 80s.
A memorial service to celebrate Bill's life was held Friday, March 18, at First Presbyterian Church in Concord, North Carolina, with Senior Pastor Peter Bynum officiating.
Memorials in Bill's name may be made to the EAA ASCEND summer camp program, which introduces teenagers to the world of aviation. EAA 1083 – ASCEND, P.O. Box 44, Salisbury, NC 28145. Memorials may also be made to Ice Skating Institute of America (ISIA) Education Foundation, encouraging skaters to make athletic as well as educational achievements. ISIA Education Foundation, 6000 Custer Rd., Bldg. 9, Plano, TX 75023, or call (972) 735-8800.
Wilkinson Funeral Home is serving the Howard family. Online condolences may be made at www.wilkinsonfuneralhome.com.
Wilkinson Funeral Home
100 Branchview Dr Ne
Concord, NC 28025
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Aug. 14, 2016