William Leon 'Bill' Preston

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nov. 5, 1942-March 11, 2011

CAMARILLO, California -- William Leon "Bill" Preston, 68, died March 11, 2011, at St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo after a stay of 14 years.

He was born Nov. 5, 1942, in Littleton, Colorado, to Evert Leon and Helen (Walsh) Preston. He attended kindergarten and first grade in Englewood, Colorado. In 1949, the family moved to Benkelman, Nebraska, where he was to attend second grade. However, the one room country school had no second grade that year so his folks enrolled him in grade one again.

He attended high school in Benkelman, but left during his junior year at age 17, to join the U.S. Air Force.

On June 2, 1962, he married Cynthia Ann Cantor while stationed at Williams AFB in Chandler, Arizona. They had three children; Michael, born in Chandler, Arizona, Yvonne born in St. Francis, Kansas and Annette, born in Evreux-Fauville, France. He was later stationed at Biloxi, Mississippi, Mountain Home, Idaho, Walla Walla, Washington and finally in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he retired from the USAF on Nov. 30, 1981, after more than 22 years of service. He served two complete tours in Vietnam and a one year unaccompanied tour in Sonderstrom, Greenland. In his early years in the Air Force he worked as a jet engine mechanic. After securing his high school diploma through the GED program, he cross-trained and became an air traffic controller.

Following his retirement, the family moved to Bremmerton, Washington.

As a civilian, he went to Lagos, Nigeria for a one year contract as the air traffic controller supervisor. He returned to Washington and found work as a security guard at the Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington. After a few years, he was promoted to sergeant. In 1989, he and his wife divorced.

In 1995, he took a position as the security force lieutenant at Naval Base Port in Hueneme, California. He was working at that job on Jan. 5, 1997, when he was stricken with a devastating cerebral hemorrage which left him paralyzed for the remainder of his life.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Survivors include his former wife, Cindy of Grapeview, Washington; children, Michael of Port Orchard, Washington, Yvonne and husband, Trevor Hewitt of Somerset, England, and Annette and husband, Tim Bodah of Adams Center, New York; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; long-time friend and fiancee, Donna Tennesen of Phoenix, Arizona; brother, Jerry and wife, Josephine of Benkelman; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial services are Thursday, 10:30 a.m. MDT, at Forch Funeral Chapel in Benkelman with the Rev. Brian Fong officiating. Services will conclude at the chapel with military honors. A private family inurnment will follow services at the Benkelman Cemetery.

Forch Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.