CHANA — William (Bill) Hay, 94, longtime resident of Chana, passed from this life on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.
Bill Hay was born on Jan. 25, 1925, in Rochelle, to James and Grace (Arnold) Hay. Theirs was a large family, brothers and sisters Lawrence and Ruth, then Bob, Jim, Mary, Grace, Bill and younger siblings Jack and Jean. Bill’s parents and all siblings, except Grace and Jack, preceded him in death.
The Hay family lived on South Third Street and Bill attended Rochelle schools. In that pre-depression era, theirs was not an easy life. When his mother Grace passed in 1929, the children ranged in age from 16 years to 6 weeks. As a youngster, Bill was ‘farmed out’ and lived with a family near Franklin Grove. At 16, he went to work at Hess & Hopkins in Rockford, sewing leather horse harnesses and being paid ‘by the piece.’
Just after his 18th birthday in 1943, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy and proudly served almost 3 years in the Pacific on the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise CV-6, the most decorated ship of World War II.
In the early 1950s, Bill was a founding member of the USS Enterprise CV-6 Association, whose members gathered for biannual reunions nationwide for over 62 years. Bill served three terms as the Association’s President and was a lifelong member of the board of directors until its dissolution in 2016.
Following World War II, Bill came home to Rochelle and shortly afterward married Alice Boumgarden of Chana. He worked as a part time tailor at Maginnis’ Men’s Clothing Store in Rochelle.
Later, with a young family and few good jobs to be found, Bill ‘stood on his head’ (his words) for the next 30-plus years - shearing sheep for northern Illinois farmers, feed lots, and South Dakota ranchers and also shoeing horses for area stables and fellow horseback riders.
With daughters Diana and Grace Ann, Bill and Alice first resided on a small farm south of Chana. But when Alice contracted polio in 1949, the young family moved to the nearby farm of his in-law’s, George and Sophie Anderson. A third daughter, Tommi Jean, was born in 1952. Later the family moved to their first home - on Main Street in Chana.
Alice passed in 1964 and their youngest daughter, Pastor Tommi Hay Boeder, passed in October 2018.
In 1966, Bill married Nancy Wills of Davis Junction and their son, William Thomas Hay Jr., was born in 1970. The following year, Bill, Nancy and young Bill moved to their ‘new’ homestead, HAY ACRES, on South Chana Road. Bill and Nancy were active in the Chana community and were members of the Rockin’ Ride Riders horse riding club.
Bill was also a volunteer member of the Ogle County Mounted Patrol. In 1985, at age 60, Bill was elected Pine Rock Township Road Commissioner and served 16 years before retiring in 2001. In retirement, Bill remained active in the Chana community.
Surviving Bill is his loving family, wife Nancy; daughters, Diana Dillman of Rockford; Grace Neie of San Antonio, Texas; son, Bill Hay (Mindi) of Janesville, Wisconsin; grandchildren, Andrew Dillman of Boca Raton, Florida, Juli Dillman Melanson (Tom) of Fulshear, Texas, Nick Maddern (Gayla) of Monument, Colorado, and Andrew Hay, Megan Hay, Bailey and Kadyn, Janesville, Wisconsin; great-grandchildren, Amber Maddern, Sean Dillman and Alexandar Melanson; plus many, much-loved nieces, nephews and friends, both near and far.
One of Bill’s most often used quotes was “Any job worth doing is worth doing right!” Those who knew Bill would say – for his community and for his family – he did his job ‘RIGHT.’ Or, in words quoting his World War II US Navy Chief, “Well Done, sailor!”
The family wishes to thank the staffs of Oregon Living and Rehabilitation Center and Serenity Hospice and Home in Oregon, for making Bill’s last weeks comfortable, content and peaceful.
A memorial service with military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Chana United Methodist Church with Pastor Matt Smith officiating preceded by a visitation beginning at 10 a.m. Private burial in Washington Grove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Serenity Hospice and Home, Pegasus Special Riders, Inc. or the charity of your choice.
Farrell-Holland-Gale Funeral Home assisted the family with arrangements.