B u s i n e s s • P o l i t i c s • A r t s • C u l t u r e • N o w Y o u K n o w • R i v e r C i t i e s R e a d e r . c o m
R i v e r C i t i e s ’ R e a d e r
• V o l .1 8 N o .7 6 9 • J a n u a r y 6 - 1 9 ,2 0 1 1
the rst American corporate ight into China.He had story aer story about his career, romdelivering a young VP (who would expandDeere internationally) to his chairmanship-appointment meeting to ying such notables asruman Capote and Dwight Eisenhower. Billhad a marvelous sense o humor, and his storieswere rich with detail and insight into the playerso the day, a group he respected or their abilitiesand vision. It was exciting to get a glimpse intothe dynamics o a global company’s executiveliestyle, something Bill always appreciatedbeing a part o. Despite this high ying career,Bill’s eet were rmly on the ground, rooted indown-to-earth convictions that were plain to allwho knew him. And always his stories circledback to his admiration o Carmella. My oneregret is not knowing her, too.Tanks to my grandmother, I have a a lot o knowledge regarding my paternal roots. Now,thanks to my uncle, I can claim the same ormy maternal heritage. My mother, Bill’s only sister, passed in 1991, so having the opportunity to learn more about her, my grandparents,my cousins, and a long list o other relativesthrough Bill’s eyes has provided me a timelessconnection to them all. He was innitely proudo his two boys, saying time and again that hecould not have asked or better sons. By sharing
William M. Johnson, RIP (19-010)
Continued On Page 8
by Kathleen McCarthykm@rcreader.com
illiam M. Johnson was my maternaluncle, who joined his wie o 62 years,Carm, when he passed quietly onDecember 30, 2010. He was 88 years old, and atreasure to me who, over these past our years,shared a rich and detailed view into my amily’shistory. His perspectives and memories o hisgeneration’s era are invaluable.Bill led a charmed lie. He was a Depression-era child in Rock Island and ondly recalledhow he used to join dozens o neighborshunting worms at night in Longview Park so they could sh or their suppers rom theMississippi. Decades later he retired rom Deere& Company, having served or 36 years asexecutive pilot, coming on board at the genesiso Deere’s aviation department aer World WarII. Bill is survived by two sons and daughters-in-laws – Bill and Neva, and om and Kathy – 16grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. Andme and my husband, odd. We could not haveloved him more.Bill worked or the
Rock Island Argus
as apaperboy and then as a teenager in the pressroom, lied about his age to get his next job asa surveyor on a barge line, and nally secureda job on the Rock Island Arsenal to save upenough to go to Augustana College. He attendedonly a semester beore enlisting in the the U.S.Army Air Corps or service during WWII,pursuing his dream to be a pilot. He was aghter-pilottrainer, yingP-51s or themost part, o the coast o North Carolinaduring the war.It wasduring themonths beoredeploying thatmy exceedingly handsomeUncle Bill metthe girl o hisdreams, my gorgeous AuntCarmella Wieckhorst, whom he married in1944. A stunning couple, she was his lie mateor 62 years o marriage that stood the test o time with unshakable devotion to one another.Aer the war, many pilots were going to work or the burgeoning commercial airlines. Billcame back to Rock Island and took a job as atime keeper on a production line at the Arsenal.Much too idle o a role, Bill sought out moreying gigs that included stunting at some o therst air shows in the region. One day, he saw aplane with the name John Deere on the side. “Ididn’t know who John Deere was, but I knew hehad a plane withhis name onit,” Bill wouldsay, grinningrom ear toear. He hadpreviously goneto InternationalHarvesterand triedto convincethem thatthey neededan aviationdivision, to noavail. Deere wasone o the rstcompanies in America investing in an aviationdepartment, and Bill was the second pilot hiredby Deere’s Colonel Wiman.Bill was a wonderul storyteller. He oenrecounted his ying experiences or Deere,such as being sent out to select and y back air-orce surplus trainers to be added to theeet, or landing on Lake Michigan and parkingthe plane on the sidewalk next to BuckinghamFountain. Decades later his missions wouldinclude ying jets across the globe, including
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