Bill’s sparkly eyes, messed-up sandy hair, and friendly smile framed by years of wrinkles welcomed pilots to Jackson County Airport in Ravenswood, W.Va., for years. He was a jack of all trades: He pumped the fuel, ran the counter, and mowed the grass. He lived on the airport property, making sure the field was always secure.
I met Bill when I was a teenager helping my dad build a hangar at the airport. Every time I saw Bill, he was quick to catch up on my plans for college and flight training and to provide encouragement, along with a few laughs. When I finished college and told him that I was going to be an aviation journalist at AOPA, he treated me like I had hit the big time. But Bill had a way of treating everyone that way.
I was just at the airport a couple of weeks ago flying with my dad and noticed that Bill didn’t come out to talk. I thought he must be doing something else since it was after hours. Later, my dad learned that Bill had recently died from cancer. I never knew Bill was sick, and he probably didn’t want to burden airport visitors like me with that knowledge.
I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to let him know that he’s the one who made me feel like the airport was my second home, even though I had only made it to Ravenswood irregularly during the past few years. Bill seemed so much a part of the airport, I guess I thought he’d endure as long as the airport itself.
So, Bill, goodbye. Thank you for making my introduction into the general aviation family so welcoming. Those of us lucky enough to know you will never forget your spirit. I hope someday I can make just one person feel as welcome in the extended family as you did for so many.