William "Bill" Whitson Slaughter, 89, Willow Care Nursing Home in Willow Springs, Mo., passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, at Ozarks Medical Center, West Plains, Mo., following a short illness.
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He was born March 5, 1923, to Mary Margaret Whitson and William Hynes Slaughter on their horse farm in Hodgenville. Bill majored in mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky before joining the United States Army Air Corps where he trained as a pilot. He was a pilot for the famous Flying Tigers under General Chennault's command in China. During one flight to return a battle-damaged aircraft, the engine failed and Bill had to do a forced landing in the Himalayan Mountains. His walk out, assisted by villagers along the way, reads like a script from an Indiana Jones movie. Upon his return from his combat tour in China, Bill married his sweetheart, Josephine Louise Elliott. To this union three children were born: Barbara Beau, Michele Louise and Stephen Elliott Slaughter.
When the Korean War arose, Bill was called upon once again to serve his country. He gained world notoriety by being involved in the world's first jet-in-jet dog fight. Although while in China he had been recommended for a Purple Heart, he had refused because he felt his wounds did not merit the honor. While performing air to ground operations in Korea, he was struck by enemy fire, severely damaging his left arm and earning his Purple Heart medal. During Bill's military service, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Presidential Union Citation, Asian American Campaign medal, WWII Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Missouri WWII Veteran Medal. He resigned his commission as a captain after 11 years of military service to his country.
Utilizing his training as an engineer, Bill started his own fishing and skiing resort on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn., and built 13 cabins and an office himself, using only hand tools for the first several cabins and floating boat dock. His floating dock design was later used as a template by Tennessee for their new state park marina. After 13 successful years, he sold the resort and had a trimaran sailboat built. He moved his family on board and enjoyed a year of adventure as they sailed the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterways. Falling in love with South Carolina and missing his days in the air, Bill sold his yacht and moved his family to Allendale, S.C., where he taught pilot ground school and flew as a crop duster. He later moved them to Columbia, S.C., where he was co-owner of the downtown airport facility. After several years, Bill decided to give his children the wonderful education that different cultures provide and moved his family to Zimbabwe, Africa. They spent time traveling the southern continent of Africa and making many wonderful friendships which were to last his life. After two years, he returned with his family to Columbia, S.C., where he rejoined his old friend and partner in running the Columbia Downtown Airport.
In 1979, Bill was recruited to go to Saudi Arabia and help build their country's air navigation system. For the next year, this is what he did with his wife Josephine by his side. Once again he returned to Columbia, S.C., and his old partner to run the Columbia Downtown Airport. After some 20-plus years in this capacity, Bill returned providing a trove of wonderful pilot stories and adventure tales for all who were ever lucky enough to meet or know of him. Bill and his wife later moved to Cabool, Mo., to be closer to their daughters. They resided there for 10 years before moving to Willow Care Nursing Home in 2012, after developing poor health.
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Josephine, of Willow Care Nursing Home; his daughter and son-in-law, Barbara B. and Mick Flanagan, Mountain Grove, Mo.; daughter and son-in-law, Michele L. and Jeffrey Dean Badger, Carbondale, Kan.; son and daughter-in-law, Stephen E. and Tracy Slaughter, Las Vegas, Nev.; sisters, Ruth Bond Settle and Betty Gay Hubbard, Lexington; grandchildren, Christopher Elliott and Lori Chovanec, Gardner, Kan.; Stephen Andre Chovanec, Roanoke, Va. and Logan William Slaughter, Las Vegas, Nev.; great-grandchildren, Gavyn Stone Chovanec and Katherine Josephine Chovanec, Gardner, Kan.; special extended family members, Jim and Patricia Hamilton, Columbia, S.C.; and many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends who will miss him greatly and wish him fair winds and clear skies.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents.
A Celebration of Life for William Whitson Slaughter was held Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Mountain Grove, Mo., with Father Brad Ellsworth presiding.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to the ASPCA, Audubon Society, Humane Society, or any animal shelter, as God's beautiful creatures were Bill's constant pleasure and enjoyment, and may be mailed to Robertson-Drago Funeral Home, 211 W. Main, West Plains, MO 65775. Online condolences may be expressed at robertsondrago.com.
Published in The Larue County Herald News on Feb. 5, 2013