William M. Burkett
1930 - 2020
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William M. Burkett

April 22, 1930 - August 9, 2020

BUCHANAN, MI - William M. Burkett, 90, of Buchanan, passed away peacefully on Sunday, August 9, 2020, at home, surrounded by his family.

William was born on April 22, 1930, to William and Jean Burkett in Flint, Michigan. He graduated from Buchanan High School in 1948. On March 27, 1952, he married his high school sweetheart, Charlotte Batchelor. Bill left the University of Michigan in 1951 to join the United States Air Force as an Airman with Aviation Cadets. He attended Flight School and Officer training together and received his wings on June 16, 1953. This began his passionate service of 30 years as a fighter pilot and officer in the United States Air Force. Bill's family was an integral part of his life. Under his leadership, his family - wife Char and children, Bill and Jean - lovingly survived and enjoyed the 23 moves of Bill's Air Force career, beginning in the Philippines and ending at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California in 1981.

Bill served in many capacities in the Air Force, beginning as a fighter pilot. Although he flew many different air planes in his career, his favorite was the F-86 Saber Jet. He flew many missions during his flying career on the front lines of the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Bill decided to attend college to earn a degree in Civil Engineering to ensure upward movement in the Air Force. He continued to fly until 1971, when the Air Force ran out of money and squelched the flying. Though devasted by the turn of events, he continued his career in Civil Engineering. By this time he was promoted to Lt. Colonel, and the remainder of his career found him in high leadership positions - from the DC area, where he worked on the space shuttle program, to base commander at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and finally at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, serving as the commander of the West Space and Missile Center, where he ended his career as a full Colonel.

After his retirement, Bill and Char spent two years visiting 49 states in their travel trailer, continuing to fulfill their love of travel. They finally settled in Buchanan, Michigan, though they continued to travel from November to April each year until they were both in their 80's. Bill cherished his family and instilled a love and respect for country and mankind in his children. He lived his life a proud American and has been an extremely important model to his family and his communities. Bill will be sorely missed.

Bill is preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Charlotte Burkett. He is survived by his daughter, Jean (Drew) Jepsky; son, William (Debra) Burkett; grandchildren: Jason, David, Robert, and Katie Jepsky; Talia (Cameron) Helvey and Brianna (Boomer) Kelly; step-grandson, Zachary Ujana; great-grandchildren, Scarlett Jepsky and Maitland Kelly; and brother, James Burkett.

A public Celebration of Life service will be held at 1 pm on Friday, August 14, 2020, at Swem Chapel, 301 W. Front St., Buchanan, MI with Pastor Ellen Bierlein officiating. Due to COVID-19 and in respect of social distancing, masks will be required. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service from Noon until 1 pm, also at the funeral home. Burial will follow in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Buchanan, with full Military Honors rendered by the Buchanan American Legion and the United States Air Force. Memorial contributions may be made to First United Methodist Church or Redbud Area Ministries. To leave your condolences and memories, please go to www.swemchapel.com.

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Published in South Bend Tribune on Aug. 12, 2020.
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