In California, he met a young naval officer from Connecticut named Betty June Carr. Betty had never traveled out of New England before she moved to California, but she was taken by his infectious smile and charm. Three months later they eloped to Reno, Nevada with a wedding ring purchased at the PX. They moved to Texas and raised four daughters. His love for duty, honor, and country were woven into their everyday lives. His daughters remember raising and lowering the American flag daily, mowing and edging the yard every Saturday, and being fully dressed with their beds made and inspected prior to opening presents on Christmas morning. Billy, always the Marine, did not regard himself as handicapped and refused any deference for his impairment. He referred to the date of the explosion as "boom day" and enthusiastically celebrated it, just as he celebrated the Marine Corps’ birthday and the 4th of July.
He became a Christian at age 36. Both he and Betty trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and joined Grace Bible Church in Dallas, Texas, where Billy served as an elder and taught Sunday school with Betty. Billy also met a fellow marine named Chuck Swindoll at Grace Bible Church and they became lifelong friends. They wrote letters back and forth for years and signed each letter with their rank and serial number. Billy lived out what he believed. He shared his message anytime the opportunity presented itself, whether it was in a business setting, giving his personal testimony, or when asked for advice.
Billy rejoined Gifford-Hill & Co. when he first returned to Texas and, in 1960, he became the president of a spin-off called Coastal Plains, an industrial supply company. Under his leadership, Coastal Plains grew to more than forty branches in eleven states with over 200 employees. He was also active in numerous organizations, serving as president of the Bearing Specialists Association and the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).
He was an early pupil of Dr. Kenneth Cooper at the Aerobics Center in Dallas. He exercised every morning before dawn and told others that, although push-ups were voluntary, everybody did them. On Friday mornings, he organized a Bible study at the Aerobics Center and invited anyone within earshot. It was at this Bible study that he mentored many young men and gave seminary students an opportunity to teach. Duane Litfin was one of those young seminary students and he and his wife, Sherry, were regulars at the Haughton Sunday lunches. Dr. Litfin later served as interim pastor at Grace Bible Church and was the president of Wheaton College for seventeen years.
After Coastal Plains was sold, Billy could have settled back, but not being one to retire, he sought out people and companies where he could have an impact. He formed a charter air service and served as a board member for the Marine Military Academy and Kastle Security Systems, along with his longtime Marine friend, Gerry Hines. He also spent time tending to his garden, chickens, and honey bees. Billy passed away in 1989 at the age of 63. He left a legacy of strength and love for his family, country, and Savior. Betty continued to teach Bible studies and became an accomplished Master Gardener. She was a beloved grandmother to her seventeen grandchildren, two of whom are also Marines, until her death in 2014.
We all ask ourselves if our lives have made a difference. Ronald Reagan said Marines never have to ask that question. Billy may not have asked it but he certainly prayed about it. In his Bible, Billy wrote “Lord, help me to finish well.” The fact we still talk about the impact that he had on each of us is, in part, an answer to that prayer.Golf Course Road Church