Waterford - Lt. Colonel William Wallace Lee Jr. (retired U.S. Army), 80, of 8 Foot Court, died on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, at his home in Waterford, surrounded by his loving family after a long courageous battle with cancer.
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Colonel Lee was born in Meriden, on Oct. 26, 1932, the son of William W. and Barbara (Horrigan) Lee Sr. He met his future wife, Ann Provost Vincent of Meriden, during the summer of 1952 while working at the Madison Beach Hotel during college in Madison. They were married in St. Rose Church in Meriden on Oct. 20, 1956 and afterwards traveled the world during his 20 years of military service. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October of 2006 surrounded by their loving children and grandchildren. He was a dedicated and loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. These fine qualities became even more noticeable to his friends and family when his wife Ann was diagnosed with a debilitating illness in 2004. She predeceased him in March 2008.
Colonel Lee attended the University of Connecticut before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1953 during the Korean War conflict where he served in the 76th Tank Battalion, 11th Airborne Division. He graduated from Army Officers Candidates School at Fort Benning, Ga. in 1955 and was commissioned at the rank of 2nd lieutenant in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR). He was a nuclear weapons instructor at the Armor School in Fort Knox, Ky. where he obtained the rank of captain. He served tours of the border defense in Landshut, Germany with the ACR 7th Army and again with the 1st Cavalry 1st Squadron in Korea in the DMZ zone. In the mid 1960's, he was the assistant chief of staff for the 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas and served a second tour in Goppinqen, Germany with the 4th Armored Division where he obtain the rank of major. He graduated from the University of Omaha in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in business administration after attending night school and supporting a family of four. One of his greatest joys was having his children in attendance at his college graduation. In 1969, after serving three tours in Vietnam, where he was assistant commanding officer for the 101st Airborne Division headquarters in Bien Hoa, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Over the course of his military career he earned the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal and the Combat Infantryman's Badge, two National Defense Service Medals and three Vietnam Service Medals for the campaigns during 1967-1969. After 20 years of service, Colonel Lee retired in 1973 and moved back to Connecticut to be closer with his family.
Colonel Lee began a second career in 1974 at Electric Boat in Groton, as an administrative liaison in Department 393 after settling his family for the last time in Waterford. He was the manager of management systems for Department 632 and oversaw the completion and conversion of significant telecommunication projects during his career which span the production of the 50 Los Angeles and Ohio class submarines and finally the design of the Seawolf submarine. In 1993, he participated in the sea trials of the SSN-760 Annapolis, of which this unique experience allowed him to fulfill two of his three life's goals to participate in trials by land (tank), underwater (submarine) and space. Another highlight for Colonel Lee was when he traveled to Keesler Air Force base Mississippi in 2009, despite being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, to proudly pin the generals star on his nephew, Ian R. Dickenson, who was being promoted to brigadier general. He had purchased the star many years ago for his nephew knowing full well that some day he would be promoted to the rank of general. Brig. Gen. Dickinson went on to serve as director of communications and information and chief information officer of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air force Base in Colorado, where he retired this spring after serving 27 years.
Colonel Lee was also very active in the Waterford town government in the 1980's serving on the Economic Development Commission, RTM and Board of Finance. He was a vocal supporter of the Waterford Athletic Booster club while his three sons were participating in high school athletics in the late 1970's and early 1980's. He was also a generous financial supporter of many area non profits and was a ten gallon blood donor for the American Red Cross. After his wife Ann passed away in 2008, he donated the handicap van that he had purchased to take her to doctors appointments and Sunday drives to Work Vessels for Veterans, an all-volunteer movement assisting returning veterans to begin their civilian careers or educational pursuits by acquiring and distributing the necessary start-up tools. He was a disabled veteran himself and this act solidified his strong belief to support and honor fellow veterans and returning wounded warriors.
In retirement, Colonel Lee and his family summered at Grove Beach Point in Westbrook, and was a member of the Grove Beach Point Association where he served as treasurer. He and his wife loved spending the summers at the beach surrounded by his children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and close friends. Pop Pop, as he is known by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will be sadly missed for his humor, caring ways and unwavering dedication to his family and his country.
He is survived by two sons, William W. "Chip" Lee III and his wife, Margaret (Marshall), of Westerly, Peter B. Lee and his wife, Dana Simoni-Lee, of Salem; two daughters, Cathy Ann (Rapoport) Lee of Waterford and her companion, Wayne McCoy of New London, Nancy B. (Lee) Gonzalez and her husband, Ricky, of Waterford; sisters, Sheila (Lee) Dickenson of Las Vegas, Nev., Betsy (Lee) Swartz and her husband, Michael, of Framingham, Mass. and Drakes Island, Maine; a brother, Thomas Lee of Bloomfield; a brother-in-law, Peter Vincent and his wife, Margaret (Rausch), of Westbrook; and a sister-in-law, Abby (Vincent) Pichnarcik and her husband, George, of Pawley Island, S.C. He is also survived by a daughter-in-law, Alice (Reinwald) Lee of Clinton; and 15 grandchildren, William "Bill" and his wife, Janelle (Odell) and Amy Lee, Andrew, Daniel, Joseph, John Michael, and Matthew Lee, Nicole Elizabeth, Samantha Michelle, and Anthony Vincent Lee; Matthew, Todd, and Dylan Rapoport, Patrick and Taylor Lee; and three great-grandchildren, Payton, Brayden and Abigail Lee; as well as many nieces and nephews.
Colonel Lee was predeceased by a son, Steven Vincent Lee; and a granddaughter, Michelle Elizabeth Lee, the daughter of his eldest son William and Margaret Lee. He was also predeceased by a brother, Kevin Steven Lee; and a brother-in-law, Robert Dickenson.
Special thanks to Dr. Bruce Cooper, Dr. Jason Haldas at Oncology & Hematology Associates, Dr. Maria Moro deCasillas at Neurology Associates, as well as his aids, Toni Simonds, Charlene Shepard, Brenda Edwards and the many caring nurses from Hospice Southeastern Connecticut who took excellent care of him during his final days at home.
Calling hours will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at the Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home, 12 Ocean Ave., New London. A Mass of Christian Burial will be conducted at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at St. Josephs Church in New London. Interment will follow at the family plot in Walnut Grove Cemetery, Meriden, with full military honors.
Memorial contributions may be made in Colonel Lee's name to the following charities: Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross, Local Disaster Relief Fund, 151 Farmington Ave., Farmington, CT 06032 or Hospice Southeastern Connecticut, 227 Dunham St., Norwich, CT 06360.
Please visit www.neilanfuneralhome.com for directions or to sign Mr. Lee's online register book.
Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home
12 Ocean Avenue New London, CT 06320
Published in The Day on Nov. 8, 2012