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William D "Bill" Smentek

January 12, 1922 May 13, 2021
William D "Bill" Smentek
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Obituary for William D "Bill" Smentek

William D., Willy Boy, Bill Smentek was born at home on January 12, 1922, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Lane Technical High School, graduated in 1940, and enlisted in the Army, which became the Army Air Corps, as a private in March, 1941. He began as a welding instructor on airplanes for 3 years, at Chanute Field near Chicago, advancing to staff sergeant, but wanted to fly, so he took the written exams for pilot training. He couldn’t go in as a cadet because he didn’t have the required 2 years of college, so he went in as a student pilot, advancing to a pilot training instructor and a check pilot.
After going to OCS, Officer Candidate School, he moved to Goodfellow Field, at San Angelo, Texas, where, on a blind date, he met a lovely young Navy widow by the name of Irma Lee McElroy. She had a young son named George Lee. They dated 3 months, and got married on July 21, 1945, (and were married 74 years! ).
Bill had been training in multi-engine aircraft, figuring to be a bomber pilot, but WWII ended as he got his wings and commission. In 1947, the Air Force was founded, Bill was in MATS, Military Air Transport Service, transporting supplies to Korea, and then wounded soldiers to Japan and America.
On March 1, 1954, Bill flew scientists from the AEC , at 19 miles away, and 5,000 ft., to observe the first hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. By the time he retired in 1961, Major Smentek was flying throughout the Pacific, but declined to fly Caribou aircraft in the Vietnam war so he was retired after 20 years. He had been in the Army, Army Air Corps and Air Force.
After that, Bill was hired for 20 years by the FAA, or Federal Aviation Agency, as an air carrier inspector, observing pilots on check rides. He studied hard to advance from propeller aircraft to jets, including Boeing‘s 707, 737, and 747.
Bill and his family lived in many states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and had driven through most of the 50 states. They were also adventurous World travelers. Up until his mid-80’s, Bill had never spent the night in a hospital, and lived to 99 years !
Upon final retirement, Bill and Irma Lee lived for 30 years on the shores of beautiful Lake LBJ, in the Hill Country of Texas. In 2013, they chose Paradise Valley Estates, assisted living, in Fairfield, CA, as home.
Bill and Irma Lee are the last of an Era, lived full lives, were the “glue,” for extended Family, and will be greatly missed beyond words.
Bill was preceded by his wife, Irma Lee. He has 4 sons: George Lee McElroy, (Jody, deceased ), Steve, (Lisa), Glenn, (Christine), Bruce (Patti), 11 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.

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