Col. William Gipson "Bill" Bookout, USAF (Retired) of Schertz, TX, beloved husband, father, mentor, and friend to many, passed away November 27, 2012 at the age of 75 after a short but courageous battle with cancer. He valiantly fought to stay with us until the perfect moment, surrounded by his loving family and passing on to heaven as the final line of the majestic pilot's poem "High Flight" was read aloud. Bill lived an extraordinary life and was truly a member of "The Greatest Generation". Bill was born October 20th, 1937 in Mobile, AL, the oldest of 3 children to parents Preddie ("Fred") Bookout, a Coast Guard radioman and Annette, a homemaker who also played piano in local silent movie houses. As a boy, Bill moved frequently with his family, growing up in Galveston, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Woodbridge, New Jersey. He started working at age 7 selling eggs door-to-door and worked his entire life. As a teen, Bill boxed in local Boy's Club matches, worked at an envelope factory and as a telephone lineman in Los Angeles. After graduating from high school in 1955, where he served as Class President for two of his four years at Woodbridge High School, he was accepted into Rutgers University's School of Engineering. However, like many patriotic young men of the day, he quickly grew impatient with his studies, and instead enlisted in the Air Force in 1957. As a two-striper, he was shipped off to Thule Air Base, Greenland to serve as an Air Operations Specialist. His superiors soon recognized Bill's intelligence and leadership qualities, and suggested he apply to Officer Candidate School. It was at this time that two very significant events occurred: he was accepted into the Aviation Cadet program, where he served as Cadet Colonel and began his long and accomplished career as an Air Force pilot; and he met his beloved wife Gayle, who would become his life-long partner and soul-mate for the next 52 years. Bill and Gayle raised three children (Barry, Cheryl, and Michael) in typical Air Force fashion, traveling the world and making lifelong friends at every new duty station. In 1959, Bill served as an instructor pilot at Reese AFB in Lubbock, TX where he flew the T-33, T37, and finally the new supersonic T-38. In 1962, Bill was involved in a serious mid-air collision while performing join-ups in a T-38 four-ship formation at 35,000 feet over New Mexico. Two aircraft were lost with pilots ejecting, but Bill was able to successfully take control and land his damaged aircraft after spinning for over 10,000 feet. From April 1966 to April 1967, Bill served as a squadron and instructor pilot in the 310th Air Commando Squadron in Vietnam, flying 1,186 combat sorties in the C-123. Bill then served as a T-38 instructor pilot at Laredo AFB, TX, then to Randolph AFB, TX as a senior flight examiner. In 1973, he was selected to participate in an exchange program with the Royal Air Force in England, flying the Hawker Hunter and Folland Gnat aircraft over England and Wales and attending the Royal Air Force Staff College. In 1976, he returned to Vance AFB in Enid, OK, serving as Chief of the Standardization/Evaluation program. In 1979, Bill was promoted to Squadron Commander of the 12th and 559th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph AFB in San Antonio, where he also served as the Chairman of the Combined Federal Campaign, breaking a local record for charitable contributions. Bill retired in June 1985 as the Director of Training Force Structure at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH, and then returned to San Antonio to reside. During his 28-year Air Force career, Bill earned many decorations, including the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Service Stars, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross (with device). Bill retired as a Command Pilot with over 6,500 hours of flying time. After retirement, Bill served as the President of the Windcrest Optimist Club and worked in real estate and residential remodeling. His main hobbies included genealogy and doting on his 7 grandchildren, but his true passion was traveling throughout the US, reuniting with the friends and family he met from his early childhood days and throughout his military career. Bill never met a stranger, treated everyone he met with respect and dignity, and was widely regarded by all who knew him as a born leader, a highly principled role model, and an honorable and dependable friend. Bill was preceded in death by his mother and father, his sister Dorothy Bookout, and his brother Jim Bookout. He is survived by his loving wife Gayle Bookout, sons Barry and Michael Bookout, and daughter Cheryl Van Dusen, as well as Grandsons Chance, Ethan, Evan, Reese, Nick, Drew and Ryder. Visitation will begin at 8:30 am on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 with the Funeral Service beginning at 10:30 am at Schertz Funeral Home in Schertz, TX. Interment will follow at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery with full United States Air Force
Honors at 1:30 pm.