William R. Knowles

COL (Ret.) Bill Knowles passed away peacefully in his sleep on 10 Jan 13, in Portland, OR, where he had been visiting with his daughter Cindy and her husband Hollis. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Marmion, who also died on 10 Jan, twelve years earlier. Bill was born 5 Feb 23, in Seattle, WA, to Frank and Odelia Knowles. He attended Cleveland High School and the University of Washington.

His education was interrupted by World War II, when he dropped out of school to fight for his country as a Marine fighter pilot. He was graduated from flight school as a Lieutenant and at age 20 found himself on the next plane to the South Pacific. Bill flew 52 combat missions with VMSB 243 (The Flying Goldbricks) in close air support of troops fighting in the jungles as they recovered island after island from the Japanese. He flew dive bombers – the Corsairs, Dauntless, and Helldivers.

After the war he returned to the states, finished up his university degree, and earned a commission in the Regular Army. Assigned to the Medical Service Corps, Bill became a Master Aviator. He was graduated from the first MSC helicopter flight class and continued flying helicopters and fixed wing aircraft throughout his 30-plus year Army career. Bill did two combat tours in Vietnam, flying MEDEVAC helicopters. In his second tour of Vietnam, with the rank of Colonel, he commanded the 498th Medical Company Air Ambulance – nicknamed “Dustoff.” As a “Flying Commander” he flew 330 combat hours, 262 combat missions, and evacuated 361 patients during his tour. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service in Vietnam. Following his second combat tour, Bill was tapped to attend the prestigious U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA, in 1968. After graduating, he transferred to the Medical Brigade in Fort Meade, MD, and took over as Chief of Plans and Operations.

Upon retiring from Military service in 1971, Bill began a successful second career in real estate and property development in Arizona. In 1977, Bill and Marmi made their last move together to CA, where Bill became Manager of Agricultural Leases for the City of San Diego, a job he continued and enjoyed until retiring in Leucadia. A convert to Catholicism in his twenties, Bill was a religious man who went to Mass every day while his health lasted. He was a generous, thoughtful, prayerful man who remained devoted to the Catholic Church. He was an inspirational father to his five children, and held the family unit together with his wisdom, strength, and great sense of humor as he and Marmi shepherded the clan on more than twenty moves overseas and around the United States. Looking at his life, you can say that for much of it he was a warrior who fought courageously for God and Country. But the measure of his spirit was the gentleness and kindness that was felt by all with whom he came in contact.

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