U.S. Army Veteran and VA Volunteer Bill Curtis made everyone’s day, every time. The WWII Veteran greeted thousands over the years at the Marion VA Medical Center in Southern Illinois and served in several different capacities, his final assignment was assisting Veterans signing in for services at the lab.
A member of the Greatest Generation, Bill Curtis served in the U.S. Army May of 1943 to February of 1946. After being trained and serving stateside for a bit, he and his fellow soldiers were flown to Scotland then England, before taking a boat to France where he would join others for an eight-month tour on the battlefront fighting Germany’s ground forces. Bill reached the rank of staff sergeant in Germany during World War II. He was released with an honorable discharge and earned a Good Conduct Medal, Overseas Service Bars, two Bronze Battle Stars and a Victory Medal.
He shared what was the most difficult thing about combat for him.
“So much of the time you are on your own, especially in the Black Forest when you were on point,” he said. “You had to walk so you didn’t break branches, and try and sneak up on those who were prepared to try and kill you.”
Bill was an inspiration as a dedicated volunteer, a VA patient and all-around wonderful man. Veterans, volunteers and employees sought Bill out, as someone to remind them of the good things in life and ask for his advice. His demeanor, his smile could change your day and perspective. Bill said, “my faith is the first priority in my life, volunteering at the VA is the second importance in my life. And, myself comes third to me.”
Bill was a supporter of VA and a kind critic. He would be the first to let VA staff know if something or someone needed attention or change with a handwritten note. Bill served as a volunteer at VA beginning in 2002 and logged over 11,000 hours of service.
The lab where Bill worked for many years was named after him with a ceremony on February 11, 2019. Bill humbly stated, “I’m surprised by the gesture, I can’t help but feel there’s probably many more people more qualified to have that, it’s an honor.”
Five days after the renaming ceremony, William “Bill” Curtis passed peacefully with his second family at the Marion VA Medical Center on Saturday, February 16th at the age of 96.
“He was soft spoken, but his actions spoke the loudest,” said friend and fellow Veteran Mike Hagen, who suggested naming the lab after Bill. “This man is huge in my eyes, and I want to be just like him when I grow up.”
Thank you for your service Bill, You will be dearly missed.
For more information about volunteering at VA visit https://www.volunteer.va.gov/apps/VolunteerNow/default.asp.