Billy Reeder Lofgren June 26th, 1927 – December 28th, 2017
Spring Hope – Billy Reeder Lofgren, 90, died Thursday at his home. Born in June of 1927 in Oklahoma City, Bill left this world ninety years later on December 28, 2017. As an eighteen-year-old, he joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps of the Army Air Corps and was called up for service in 1945, training for aerial photography and photo lab work. After his discharge at the end of 1946 and having earned his private pilot’s license, he continued to follow his passion for flying for 45 years. When his health no longer made flying possible, he built and flew remote control airplanes at the Knox County (TN) Radio Control Flying Field. He also devoted time to the Young Eagles Program of the Experimental Aircraft Association to introduce younger generations to the world of aviation. He continued to enjoy flying in and out of airports around the world by means of his flight-simulator program on his computer.
His mechanical skills served him well in a career that eventually led him into positions directing bus maintenance operations in Austin, TX, and later in Knoxville, TN, until his retirement in 1993. In the course of his work, he had the opportunity to help other municipalities and public entities start up or expand their bus services. Most memorable for him was his work in this capacity with the Navajo Nation.
While in Knoxville, he was an active member of Colonial Heights UMC, serving in Sunday School and United Methodist Men until failing health prevented regular attendance. In 2015, he and Gladys made difficult choice to leave their longtime church family and friends in Knoxville to relocate to Spring Hope, NC, to be nearer Gladys’s daughter and son-in-law.
Bill is survived by his wife Gladys; daughters Kathy Young (Charlie) and Mary Ellen Rowan (Terry) in Texas, and Martha Jacobsen (Rick) in California; stepson Russell Bettini (Bonnie) in Colorado; stepdaughter Joyce Bettini (Mark Williard)in North Carolina; 5 grandchildren; 2 step-grandchildren; 5 great-grandchildren.
You, the reader, now know the facts, but through the voice of Kathy, his eldest daughter, you have the opportunity to know the man:
My Dad taught me a lot about life. He taught all us girls to drive... and a stick shift at that. That must have given him a few grey hairs. I discovered when stressed while learning to drive that I could not tell right from left. As a result, I went the wrong way on a one-way street with Dad yelling at me, "Right, I said right.” Luckily, we survived that experience and all became good drivers. He taught me responsibility when as a new driver I backed out of the driveway without looking and smashed straight into the front fender of our neighbor's VW bug. I ran and told Dad what I had done. He made me go and tell the neighbor what I had done. I was so scared. I asked Daddy to go with me, but he said I had to stand on my own two feet and deal with it. Knees shaking, I rang the neighbor's doorbell fearing he would kill me. The neighbor, who had two teenagers of his own, was understanding, and we worked out a repair deal. Dad taught me to work hard, as he often worked two jobs. When I was little, I remember having to play quietly during the day because he worked the graveyard shift at Shell. Dad loved working on cars, and I spent many an hour washing parts in gas while he overhauled an engine. His father, Frank Lofgren, had been a machinist and a shade tree mechanic, and Dad learned from him. One of Dad's first jobs after they moved to Houston was delivering papers on his bicycle for the Houston Chronicle. He gave all the money he made to his mother to help out the family. Born in Oklahoma, he moved to Texas with his family when his father got a job at Hughes Tool. The depression was hard on the family, and Dad often said that he knew it was Sunday because there was meat, usually a baked chicken. He grew up tall and lean like Stan Laurel but with ears that stuck out like Clark Gable. He once told me he never had enough to eat until he joined the Army Air Corps. The war was on, so as soon as he graduated high school, he joined up. He had long dreamed of flying and this was his chance. His time in the service was one of the highlights of his life. One of my favorite pictures from that time showed him in uniform sitting with some buddies smoking a pipe to look older. Besides airplanes and cars, he loved cold beer, cheap cigars, video poker, gambling, Las Vegas, and the Texas Aggies. He also loved his three girls. He took us boating and waterskiing on Lake Travis. He'd load up the station wagon and take us camping. Once he saved our lives. We three girls were inside the tent changing out of our swim suits when the lantern caught fire. I started yelling and Dad came running. He grabbed the flaming lantern barehanded and took it out of the tent before it could catch the tent on fire. I was amazed at his quick action. He wasn't one to give praise easily, but he was proud that we all grew up to be hard working and responsible citizens. Funeral service 12 noon Tuesday January 2nd, 2018 at Massey Funeral Home, Zebulon.
Graveside service 2 pm Tuesday at Historic Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh.