William Morrow McMillen

William Morrow McMillen

April 24, 1924 to January 12, 2014

William (Bill) Morrow McMillen, age 89, of Olga, Wash., passed away peacefully the evening of January 12, 2014, in Snohomish, Wash., at the home of his granddaughter, with many of his loved ones by his side.

Bill, known to many as “Poppie” or “Grampa Bill” to his growing gaggle of grandchildren and great grandchildren, was born April 24, 1924, in Gary, Ind., to Ruth (Morrow) and William Earl McMillen. Bill grew up in the rural community of Hebron, Ind., graduating from Hebron High School.

Bill served in the Army during WWII and was a member of the 65th Infantry Division (Battle Axe) in the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater earning campaign stars as a Tec-5 Machine Gunner during the Rhineland and Central Europe battle campaigns. Bill was honorably discharged from active duty in 1946.

After the war, Bill earned a bachelor of science degreein electrical engineering, graduating in 1951 from Purdue University. In 1948 while a student at Purdue, Bill married the love of his life, Joan Marie MacMillan. Son, David, was born in 1949 to the young student family who were living in West Lafayette, Ind.

After graduation Bill and Joan spent the next 18 years in the Niles-Warren, Ohio, area where Bill held positions as a test engineer at Ohio Edison; applications engineer at Wean Engineering; and project engineer at United States Gypsum Expanded Metal Works. During the course of his varied duties during these years, he spent much time traveling and communicating technical details with customers and facility operators from all over the world. For those who worked with him he earned trust for his fairness and genuine care for their well-being – a trait he maintained his entire life. It was in Ohio that son, Brian, and granddaughter, Jennifer, were born.

In 1968 the family moved to the California High Desert town of Trona, near Death Valley National Park, where Bill accepted employment with Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation, which had just acquired American Potash & Chemical Company, holding the position of Power House Superintendent for six years.

Bill completed the last 16 years of his working career at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center eventually serving as Head, Process Engineering Branch, Code 3254 working on a variety of Naval defense projects. In 1987 he received the Clarence J. Renee award for Significant and Outstanding service in Facility and Process Systems Management, Design, Maintenance, and Operations Support from the Ordnance Department.

Upon his retirement in 1990, he and Joan moved to the home Joan’s father built in the hamlet of Olga, Wash., on Orcas Island in the Puget Sound. After spending over 20 years in the Mojave Desert, the change was invigorating and wondrous for them and they immensely enjoyed watching the sea life and island wildlife that was just outside their window. His retirement enabled him to pursue his hobby of writing, setting to paper a history of the family and his own unique experiences (along with photographs), which he humorously labeled “My First Hundred Years”.

Upon Joan’s death in 2006, he turned to poetry as a creative outlet for his grief and enduring love for her. He self-published a short booklet of these writings which he titled “Vignettes” – as he thought this description more appropriate than “poems”. He also authored an unpublished children’s story “Egg Nogg”, which delighted his eldest grandchildren whom he was trying to entertain when they were quite young. Bill also, loved to tell that he was honored to be named “Poppie” by a little girl (great granddaughter Dani). His favorite saying was “Nice save Poppie”, which was chattered by toddler Dani one day from the back seat of his car as he swerved to miss hitting a curb.

As Bill’s health declined through a series of mini strokes he eventually was not able to live full time on the island and took up part time residence on the mainland with his granddaughter, Jenni, and her family in Snohomish, Wash., where they lovingly cared for him up to the very end.

Bill is survived by son Brian and wife Dawn McMillen of Trona, Calif.; granddaughter (whom Bill and Joan raised) Jenni Mullin and husband Mike, of Snohomish, Wash.; granddaughter Shelly Benkman and husband Chris of Logandale, Nev.; grandson Billy McMillen of Tex.; grandson Chris McMillen and wife Cher, of Trona, Calif.; granddaughter Kimberly Bays and husband Chad of Trona, Calif.; and 11 (eleven) great grandchildren; Elizabeth Marcum, Ind.; Danielle Mullin, Hawaii; Jacob Mullin, Wash.; Justice and Cody Benkman, Nev.; Emilie and Liah McMillen, CA; Samuel, Matthew, and Sophia Bays, Calif.; Logan Bays, Texas; and by his younger brother, Richard McMillen, of Ind.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents William “Earl” and Ruth; wife Joan; and son David.

A private service will be held at a later date. The family suggests that donations in Bill’s memory be made to the U.S. Olympics.