William Mack "Bill" Foote, 91, a longtime businessman and civic leader in Durant, died Sunday, September 1, 2013, at Norman Regional Hospital. Since June, he had been a resident of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Norman.
Foote was a major force in Durant civic life having served as Mayor, city councilman, Chamber of Commerce Director, treasurer of the Camp Fire Girls, secretary-treasurer of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Board and president of the Oklahoma Nurserymen's Association. The Durant Kiwanis Club named Foote Durant's first "Citizen of the Year" in 1967.
Foote was a lifelong member of the First Presbyterian Church of Durant where he served as an elder for much of his adult life and was superintendent of the Sunday school. He taught a men's Bible class until he was 91, leaving only when poor health necessitated his move to Norman in 2013. Foote was active in the Indian Nations Presbytery for many years, representing the Durant church.
Foote spent his entire professional career as co-owner and operator of the Durant Nursery Company, a business that started in Indian Territory in 1905. After their father, Junius, passed away in 1946, Foote and his two brothers operated the nursery until they sold it in 1985. At one point, the Durant Nursery was Durant's largest employer and the largest wholesale nursery in Oklahoma. It sold field-grown and container stock over a six-state area surrounding Oklahoma. Foote was in charge of most of the growing operation and headed the retail part of the nursery that served Bryan County.
Bill Foote was born in Durant on October 24, 1921, the youngest of five children born to Junius Talcott Foote and Mary Belle Sims Foote. He attended Durant High School before spending a year at the Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore. His college study in business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas was interrupted during World War II when he joined the Army Air Corps.
During World War II, Foote served as a radioman and gunner, flying B-17s in the Eighth Air Force. He made numerous bombing runs over Germany including the first day-time bombing mission. Foote served under the command of General Ira Eaker, also a Durant native. Foote was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Bronze Stars. Foote married Juhree Smalley of Ringling on June 27, 1946. They had two children: Jerry Kay Foote Hodgkinson is a Presbyterian chaplain in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Elizabeth Ann "Libby" Foote Waldenville, a retired music teacher in the Norman Public Schools, is Director of Children's Music and Handbells at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church.
Foote was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Juhree, in 2006. He is survived by two daughters, Jerry Kay Foote Hodgkinson of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Ann "Libby" Foote Waldenville of Norman and a sister, Francile Foote Ehricht of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Other family members include sons-in-law Chuck Hodgkinson of Philadelphia and Art Waldenville of Norman, two grandchildren Bryan Mack Waldenville and his wife, Zandrea, of Norman and Scott Waldenville of Prairie Village, Kansas, and two great-grandchildren Blakely and Ty Waldenville of Norman. Among his survivors are several nieces and nephews including Oklahoma residents Susan Foote Morrison of Durant and Joe Foote of Norman.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, September 3, at the First Presbyterian Church in Durant with Rev. Jim Shroyer officiating.
Arrangements are under the direction of Holmes-Coffey-Murray Funeral Home.
Memorial contributions can be made to the First Presbyterian Church, 501 North 15th Avenue, Durant, OK 74701.