Billy Ansel Heasley passed away peacefully on Nov. 24, 2016, at Melech Hospice
House, Tampa, at the age of 90. He is preceded by his parents, W.R. and Mamie Heasley; four sisters, Velma McWilliams, Raye Mozelle Moralez, Doris Berry, and Carol Ann Heasley; and a
brother, Carl Heasley. He is survived by a sister, Melba Heasley, his son and daughter-in-law, William and Rose Heasley, and daughter and son-in-law, Lynn Heasley and Keith Brewster.
An Arkansas native, he grew up on a farm. As soon as he was of age, he followed his
older brother into the US Navy in what turned out to be the closing days of WWII, serving on ships USS ANCON and USS Harry F. Bauer. He later used the GI Bill to
earn his associate degree from the University of Arkansas while enjoying his free time racing motorcycles on dirt tracks, tinkering with engines, and traveling with
buddies. When the Korean War began and he heard the US Air Force was looking for
pilots, he joined that branch of service under the promise if he passed pilot testing
they would put him through the rest of college. After that war, he was stationed
various places including several years at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, where
he flew the B-47 Stratojet for the Strategic Air Command. In Tampa he also met his
bride-to-be, Carol Gunn, a Tampa native. On their honeymoon the two drove cross
country from Tampa to Seattle in an Austin Healey convertible towing a sailboat.
Once settled, he continued his Air Force duties while attending the University of
Washington for his bachelor’s in engineering. A strong believer in the importance of
education, he was the first in his family to complete college. In 1963 their son
William was born and a few years later they were stationed at Eglin Air Force Base,
where they welcomed their daughter Lynn. A skilled sailor, he competed in many
regattas while stationed there. During the Viet Nam War, he flew the O-1 BirdDog as
a forward air controller.
In 1970 he retired from a 20-year Air Force career at the rank of major, and the
family moved to Land O’ Lakes, FL, where Bill co-owned and was sole operator of
Atwood Boats for five years. After the business closed, he was a long-haul truck
owner/operator for a few years, until retiring for good and pursuing many ongoing
projects, including restoring a sailboat, constructing a steel hanger, and building an
He also reconnected with his love of motorcycles and was the proud owner of a
brand-new Harley Davidson, which saw a lot of use and was one of only two vehicles
he ever bought new. A talented shade-tree mechanic, he always preferred spending
his free hours buying deals that turned into projects he continually worked on,
usually with his son by his side. In the late 1970s, he was an early adopter of home
computers. Throughout, he gifted his son with a priceless wealth of knowledge and
skills in vehicle and home repair, boating, tech aptitude, and the general art of cando
problem solving. That turned out to be a family trait, as among his daughter’s
favorite gifts as an adult are the many power tools he bought her and taught her to
use, from the jigsaw to the power drill to the compound-sliding miter saw they
picked out together.
As a parent, he gave his kids most necessities but few luxuries, believing strongly in
the character-building aspects of learning to do without and working for what you
have—a successful formula he honed first-hand as a child of the Depression, and
proudly practiced all his life.
Bill was a self-made man and a defining member of America’s Greatest Generation:
Proud to serve, proud to be self-reliant, and determined to be debt-free. He
defended America selflessly, loved his children deeply, and clung to his
independence unfailingly. He was our hero and we will miss him always.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, at Blount & Curry
Terrace Oaks, Tampa. The family will receive friends a half hour prior to the service.
Donations may be made in Bill’s memory to the Carol Gunn Heasley Memorial
Scholarship (Fund 1690) at Pasco Hernando State College.