William “Bill” L. Birk, Spokane, Wash., formerly of Woodstock, died Wednesday, June 1, 2016, after a valiant 11-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
He was born Jan. 25, 1933, to Vernon and Florence (Haack) Birk in Woodstock.
On April 2, 1955, after earning a commission in the U.S. Air Force, he married Eunice Ewert.
He spent most of his youth in Woodstock and graduated from Dundee High School. He graduated from the University of Illinois two-year aviation program. He completed the U.S. Air Force cadet program and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He flew fighter aircraft for the first few years and, in 1958, was assigned to Fairchild AFB as a tanker (KC-135) pilot. In1968, he received orders to train in the F-105 fighter aircraft. He loved being back in fighters again and excelled in this training program, receiving the Top Gun award and also the outstanding graduate of his class award. When orders came for assignment to Vietnam, he was assigned as an adviser to and pilot with the South Vietnam Air Force. He was awarded the Vietnamese Medal of Honor.
He retired from the Air Force in December 1973 and, never one to remain idle, began working for Expo ‘74 in Spokane in January. He also worked for Expo ‘82 in Knoxville, Tenn., and Expo ‘84 in New Orleans.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Washington State University and was an adjunct teacher at Spokane Community College. He designed and built an earth-sheltered home where he and Eunice lived the past 29 years. He invested in llamas and, for five years, he and Eunice were the North Idaho Llama Outfitters.
Survivors include his dad’s beloved wife, Marjorie Birk; his wife; a son, Gary (Terri); two daughters, Terri (Dale) Williams and Karen (Steve) Brown; six grandchildren, Aerik, Jacob and Kyle Williams, Isaac and Abby Brown and Jessica (John) Abraham; and five great-grandchildren, Lyric, Coda and Brodie Williams and Hunter and Kenzie Abraham.
He was preceded in death by his father; his mother; and a daughter, Kathy Birk.
A memorial service was held June 9 at Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church, Spokane. Donations can be made to Horizon Hospice or the Alzheimer’s Association.