SPOKANE – Wilho Edward Williams passed away on April 30, 2021 at the age of 99. Wilho (a common Finnish name) was born on March 7, 1922 in Spokane in his parent's home in Peaceful Valley. His immigrant Finnish parents were Emil and Lulu Williams. He was an only child.
Wilho started his education at Cowley Grade School in Peaceful Valley, which only offered 1st and 2nd grade. He then attended Washington Grade School in Browns Addition and graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in the class of 1940. While at LC he was on the track team and held the city pole vault record using a bamboo pole.
He elected to go to Washington State University, known as Washington State College at the time, and majored in Civil Engineering. While at WSC, he was a member of the weight lifting team, the track team and in Army ROTC. The first two years were completed on schedule. Then a bump in the road, the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He calculated that if he finished his third year and went to summer school he would have enough credits to graduate with a BSCE degree. Wilho signed up for the Naval Reserve and after completing his engineering degree was called to active duty and sent to Notre Dame for Officer Candidate School, also known as "90 Day Wonder School". This was the start of a second and unexpected career. Upon graduation from Notre Dame, Ensign Williams joined the 70th Naval Construction Battalion as a fighting Seabee.
After further military training in Hawaii, he sailed with his Battalion to the Island of Okinawa where they were the first wave to hit the beaches. Later he was at the island of Tinian. While walking one day by the B29s, Wilho came upon a building surrounded by soldiers. He asked what was going on and they said, "we don't know and to go away!" And away he went, sailing towards the southern tip of Japan for an invasion. But they were turned around after the atom bomb was dropped. Then he knew what was in the building.
After WWII, he attended the University of Illinois in Urbana and obtained a Masters in Structural Engineering. After a short time in Spokane doing engineering, Wilho was called up for the Korean War. He was stationed at the Naval Base in Seattle where he meet the love of his life, Virginia Knudsen who was the Captain's secretary. Virginia lived on Queen Ann Hill. In June of 1954 the two were wed and moved to Spokane. They were married for 57 years.
Wilho went to work for Culler, Gale, Martell, Erickson, Norrie, and Davis Architects and Engineers. Later in life, people would ask Wilho what he did during the Korean War. He said with a happy smile, "I fought the battle of Queen Ann Hill."
Most citizens of Spokane have benefited in some way from Wilho's engineering. Here is a partial list of some of the fun and memorable projects he worked on in and around Spokane: Spokane arterial bridges, Spokane Community College, Shadle Park High School, Sacred Heart Church, the marina and water system in Farragut Idaho, the hospital in Sandpoint, ID, the Woman's gym at the University of Idaho, Concrete grain elevators and bins, a 186-foot-high pea plant in the Spokane Valley, the bridge and tunnel at the Expo 74 site, the Federal building in Spokane, Kootenai Hospital, two dormitories at Eastern Washington University, Columbia High School, Pendleton High School, Sloan Engineering building at WSU, Spokane Waste Water Treatment Plant, and Bangor Naval Base in Silverdale.
Wilho was involved in many organizations over the years including; American Society of Civil Engineers, appointed by the Governor for 8 years to the Washington State Licensing Board, member and President of the Professional Engineers local Chapter, member and President of Spokane Engineers Forum. He retired in 1974 as Captain with 31 years (active and reserves) in the United States Navy. He was an active member at Central Lutheran Church for over 60 years where he and Virginia raised their children in the Christian faith.
During his career Wilho inspired and motivated both of his son's to go to WSU and become engineers and two of his Grandsons to become engineers; one from the Naval Academy and the other from WSU. Their daughter was called to serve in ministry through the Lutheran church. Wilho officially retired a couple years ago after an enjoyable 75-year engineering career.
Wilho was proceeded in death by his mother, Lulu, his father, Emil, and his wife Virginia. Wilho is survived by his son, Craig Williams and wife Lori of Reno, NV; his daughter Kim Williams of Denver, CO; son Kevin Williams and Lori Lewis of Spokane, WA., Grandson Brian Williams and wife Kate of Annapolis, MD; granddaughter Katelynn (Williams) Wenzell and husband Rob of Walnut Creek, CA; grandson LT. Travis Williams, USN; granddaughter Megan (Williams) Farley and husband Ian of Post Falls, ID; grandson Brett Williams of Seattle WA; great granddaughter Bennett and great grandson Clark.
There will be a viewing at Heritage Funeral Home, 508 N Government Way, on Saturday May 15th at 9:00am-9:45am, followed by a short grave side committal with full military honors at 10:30am at Greenwood Memorial Terrace across the street. A memorial service will follow at Central Lutheran Church 512 S. Bernard Street at 12:00pm.
Published in Heritage Funeral & Cremation from May 6 to May 7, 2021.