Alabama Heritage Funeral Home
10505 Atlanta Highway
Montgomery, AL 36117
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Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson Obituary
Bill Johnson

Montgomery - When Billie Dell Johnson was in the fifth grade, he remembers watching a small plane circle above his house in the wheat lands of Norwich, Kansas.

"I want to do that!" he said.

And he did.

That sighting inspired a lifelong passion for flying and a distinguished career as a U.S. Naval Aviator, where Bill earned the rank of Captain.

He made aircraft carrier landings on the USS Monterey and hunted Soviet submarines while piloting the P-3 Orion. He flew seven kinds of Navy aircraft, and served his country during four tours of duty in Vietnam before retiring with honors in 1980 after 26 years of active Navy service.

During his accident-free flight career he amassed over 11,000 pilot hours.

Bill Johnson, 87, of Montgomery, Alabama, passed away on Sept. 19. He was preceded in death by his parents Delma V. Johnson and Faye W. Johnson of Wichita, Kansas, and wife Patricia of Montgomery, to whom he was married for 58 years.

He was married to Linda Thompson Johnson for the past 41/2 years.

Bill joined the U.S. Navy in April 1954, choosing the Naval Aviation Cadet Program, and was commissioned as Ensign and Naval Aviator in October 1955. He was stationed at Hutchinson, Kansas, Norfolk, Virginia, Coronado Island, California, Whidbey Island, Washington, Monterey, California, Montgomery, Alabama, and twice at Barbers Point, Hawaii.

In Hawaii, he was Commanding Officer of the P-3 Orion Patrol Squadron One and later served at the USAF War College in Montgomery, where he was Naval Advisor to Air University.

He and wife Patty made lasting friendships with many foreign officer families while hosting them during their short tenures at the Air University.

Bill's military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medals (2), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (2), Air Force Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service, Vietnam Service (4), Vietnamese Gallantry Cross Unit Citation and Vietnam Campaign medal.

Bill saw a lot of the world during his Navy career. During his life he visited 45 countries and embarked on 35 ship cruises and six riverboat cruises in Egypt, Europe and China.

Among his favorite adventures: Seeing Africa while on tent safari, armed with a machete and whistle at night in case the wildlife got too close.

He continued his strong interest in aviation as Chief Flight Instructor at Auburn University, and flew his 1947 Stinson until he was 82 years old.

He and wife Patty, of Rocky Ford, Colorado, took the time to show their four children the world.

Despite frequent moves with the Navy, they both taught their children to appreciate the best of each new place. Bill and Patty shared their love of the outdoors; Bill teaching his sons to sail and Patty teaching her daughter how to ride horses.

They took family trips to see albatrosses on Midway Island and let their youngsters poke pennies into oozing lava on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Like his father, Bill loved to fish, whether on a Virginia lake, on his salmon boat Kokanee in Whidbey Island or aboard a deep-sea cruiser in Hawaii trolling for marlin and tuna.

Bill's deep love of life and adventurous spirit lives on in his survivors.

They include his wife Linda Thompson Johnson of the home; brother Jack and wife Sonya of Towanda, Kansas; sister Jean and husband Ray of Sarasota, Florida; sons Wesley and wife Dayle of Springfield, Missouri; Daniel and wife Yoshie of West New York, New Jersey; Matthew of Tumon, Guam; and daughter Jeannie and husband Joseph Doole of Newnan, Georgia; granddaughters Leah Meckel of Augusta, Kansas, Kelly Keenan and husband Sean of Southbury, Connecticut, Rebecca Reep and husband Nathan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and grandson Jeffrey and wife Cara of Springfield, Missouri; Dylan and Ryan Doole of Newnan, Georgia, and six great grandchildren.

Visitation will be at Alabama Heritage Funeral Home in Montgomery on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 10:30 a.m.-noon, with a Celebration of Life service beginning at noon.

Bill will be buried with full military honors at 1 p.m.. on Thursday, Sept. 26 at Ft. Barrancas National Cemetery, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. Pall bearers will be Wesley Johnson, Daniel Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Joseph Doole, Dave Ramsey and Wayne Murchison.

Good friend and tennis partner Jim Brewer, and members of EAA Chapter 822, are honorary pallbearer.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Food Bank of Montgomery, or to help find a cure for IPF.
Published in the Montgomery Advertiser on Sept. 22, 2019
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