Chief Master Sgt. BJ Hoagland, U.S. Air Force, retired, of Niceville Fla., passed peacefully into the arms of his "buddy" Jesus on March 13, at 78 years young.
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He was born in Rock Hill, S.C., on June 1, 1934, and graduated from high school in Lancaster, S.C., entering the United States Air Force at 17 years of age. He met and married the love of his life, Ruby, in the Panama Canal Zone in June of 1960, where their incredible journey and romance began, taking them all over the world to France, England, Philippines, Vietnam, Iceland, and bases throughout the United States. During his 27 years serving his country he was honored with the following awards: The Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Force Commendation Medals, Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense with Star, Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal with five OLC, Air Force Longevity with Silver Cluster, Sharp Shooters Ribbon, two other Vietnam Awards.
A natural entertainer, BJ also entertained his fellow servicemen with his own bands, playing NCO gigs wherever he was stationed. After retiring as a chief master sergeant, he didn't stop reaching for his goals. He then went on to Okaloosa Walton Junior College and Troy State University earning an Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree, where he continued working at TSU for a number of years. Being an expert southern chef, he went on to open his own restaurant in Niceville called BJ's Boggy Country, serving military personnel and civilians alike.
Other activities and accomplishments to note (as he was extremely proud of them)… hitting a hole-in-one at Eglin Golf Course-201 yards!, being the neighborhood Santa Claus, cooking for parent's weekends for his daughter's sorority (ZTA) at THE University of Florida, rescuing a myriad of animals including his two pups (Robbie and Pepper), driving the Shriner go-carts during the Niceville parades…just to name a few.
He was a man filled to the brim with the Lord's joy and love, and to be around him simply made you a better person. A member of First Baptist Church, he loved his Savior, wife of 53 years, daughters, grandchildren, country, the Gators, golf, barbecue, politics, animals and life!
He is survived by his beloved wife, Ruby; daughter, Xenia and husband Robert Rushing of Niceville; daughter, Patty and husband Tom Lane of Nashville, Tenn.; grandchildren, BJ Rushing, Aleecia and husband Justin Furlong, Maegan Rushing; and aunt, Mae Baker. BJ is preceded in death by loving grandparents, Jack and Eula Sims; mother, Rosie Shealy; uncles, Furman Sims, Bill Sims, Doc Sims; aunts, Pauline Hinson, Maudell Vincent; and brother, Jimmy Shealy.
Arrangements are entrusted to Heritage Funeral Home of Panama City, Fla. A memorial service celebrating his wonderful life will be held at Heritage Gardens of Niceville, on March 18, at 2:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations to First Baptist Church of Niceville or PAWS Humane Society of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., are appreciated.
Those wishing to extend a word of condolence may do so at www.heritagefhll.com.
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Mar. 16 to Mar. 17, 2013