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William “Bill” McKarns (1923-2022)

William “Bill” McKarns passed away peacefully on Jan. 4, 2022, in Bryan, Ohio, with loved ones at his side. Just shy of his 99th birthday when he died, Bill had a long and fulfilling life. The youngest child of William R. and Anna Christina Sparling McKarns, William was born in Bryan on Jan. 30, 1923.

Bill graduated from Bryan High School in 1941, lettering in football, basketball, track and tennis. He continued to play tennis, basketball and softball for many years.

In the fall of 1941, he matriculated to Michigan State University. Majoring in forestry, he completed the first quarter, but following the bombing of Pearl Harbor he joined the Army Air Corps.

As a first lieutenant in WWII, Bill piloted C-46 and C-47 planes, making 90 round-trip missions carrying cargo from India to China over the Himalayan Mountains, known as “the Hump.” When the war was over, he married Betty Lou Starr on July 12, 1945.

For over 40 years, Bill owned McKarns Real Estate across from the Bryan courthouse. He was community minded and his involvements included Lions Club and chamber of commerce.

Bill taught Sunday school at the Methodist church, helped facilitate the creation of Roseland Park and the Bryan YWCA, and was a 75-plus-year member of the American Legion.

In keeping with his love of the outdoors, Bill was also active in the Williams County Conservation League. For a number of years, he was chairman of the Williams County Democratic Party and served on the board of the Williams County Historical Society.

Bill fixed just about anything, created large vegetable gardens until his later years, and planted thousands of trees on land that eventually became a certified tree farm.

He traveled the country with his wife, attending various educational forestry meetings, as well as Hump pilot reunions, while making new friends through these associations.

From early school years and throughout his life, Bill was eager to learn and enjoyed reading historical accounts, natural history, biographies and other non-fiction.

As a boy, he began composing poetry from the age of 12 and memorized long, classic poems over his lifetime. He could recite several of these poems until his death. He enjoyed sharing his interest in poetry and presented programs to various groups in Bryan.

The war gave Bill a taste for travel and he and his wife visited nearly every state in the U.S. and many countries around the world.

To commemorate the 51st anniversary of the end of WWII, they enjoyed a wonderful trip to China with other Hump pilots and their wives, where the pilots were honored by the Chinese people for their service during the war.

Bill was always there for his family, fixing breakfast on school mornings, playing softball in the yard or creating wonderful memories on family trips.

He instilled in his children a love of the outdoors and respect for nature, a reverence for our country and interest in history. By example, he taught loyalty and love for family, and a great work ethic.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents; and siblings, Paul, Gertrude Kirby and Mildred Bigler; an infant brother; son-in-law, John Stockwell; and grandson, Zachary Stockwell Wilson.

He will be dearly missed and always remembered by his surviving family: wife, Betty; children, Christine Stockwell, William “Mic” (Jenni) McKarns, Jane (Jim) Fireovid and Thomas “Tom” (Lisa) McKarns; 11 grandchildren, Lara (Rich) Wilson, Andrea (Dell) Stockwell-Johnson, Daniel (Chelsea) McKarns, Nathan McKarns, Adam (Megan) McKarns, Jason (Mary) Fireovid, Emily (Mike) Hiriak, Katie (John) Willson, Kate (Michael) Sickles, Jack (fiancé Olivia Berry) McKarns and Will McKarns; 16 great-grandchildren, Bee Wilson, Cooper Bradford, Molly, Leah and Anna McKarns, Ava McKarns, Maeve, Rowan and Nolan McKarns, Kayla and Jenna Fireovid, Megan and Brandon Hiriak, Jacob and Sarah Willson and Eliza Sickles; and one great-great-grandson, Mateo Schwarz-Useche.

The family wishes to give special thanks to the compassionate and devoted caregivers at Fountain Park Assisted Living and Memory Care and to CHP Hospice who made his days brighter.

Due to the pandemic, funeral services will be private and a gathering to celebrate Bill’s life will be held at a later date. Arrangements are in care of Oberlin-Turnbull Funeral Home, 206 N. Lynn St., Bryan, Ohio.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to Wesley United Methodist Church, The National WWII Museum or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Condolences may be sent to the family or memories may be shared at


Source: The Village Reporter

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