Eulogy given at Bill's memorial sevice by his son Roy
William Ward Mayhugh was born August 8, 1927 in Wheeling, West Virginia to Lewis Harry Mayhugh and Ethel Euscebia Ward.
He died November 18, 2017 at home in Ridgecrest, California.
Dad is survived by his wife, of 68 years, Dorothy Eileen Blose, Sons: Roy and wife Bonnie of Ridgecrest, Robert and wife JoAnn of Bishop, Richard of Inyokern and Gary and wife Laura of Gardnerville, NV; he leaves 10 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren; 6 great great grandchildren and a step-brother, Richard deBrauwere and wife Elle of Tualatin, Oregon.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Lewis and Ethel, his step-father, Charles deBrauwere; his step-brother John deBrauwere and his son, Grant.
Dad, like so many of the Greatest Generation, was defined by the times and his life experiences.
Just two years after he was born, the great depression struck. His Father, Harry, was a lineman by profession working high up on power poles. But the construction of new power lines all but stopped and work became scarce.
In August of 1935, The Mayhugh’s headed west in search of steady work. They struck out from West Virginia in a 1928 Buick. The trip took a week and they arrived in Los Angeles, California on August 8, 1935 – Bill’s 8th birthday.
Harry was able to get work but it was arduous - 16 hours a day, six days a week.
In spring of 1937 Harry landed the job that he sought in California – he was back up on Power Poles as a crew foreman for the City of Glendale Water and Power department.
Harry always worked long hours – that seemed to be the way it was back then. But, Dad had fond memories of those special times when his Dad did have time off.
Just when things were beginning to look up tragedy struck. Harry was working about 45 feet up a pole when the platform he was on broke. Dad was with his dad when he died a few hours later in the hospital. It was February 10, 1939. Dad was 11 years old.
As you can well imagine, times were hard for Dad and his mom Ethel. She got work, where she could find it and dad chipped in by delivering newspapers, and setting pins in a bowling alley.
Not long after war broke out he convinced his Mother to allow him to enlist in the Navy.
He signed up on December 7, 1942 – exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He reported for duty on February 10, 1943 – four years to the day after his dad was killed.
Dad was 15 years and 4 months old when he went off to war.
He was assigned to the Battleship USS Tennessee just completing major repairs and modernization. On May 7, 1943 the “Big T” as she was called headed out to war from the Puget Sound Navy Yard with Bill onboard.
Dad was especially proud of the Tennessee. When he spoke about his Navy days he never said ‘I’ – it was always ‘we’ or ‘she’. It was the old battleships, like the “Big T” that did the heavy lifting during the war.
Her World War II log reads like a history book of the battle for the Pacific – the “Big T” was involved in nearly all major engagements in the Pacific.
Kiska and the Aleutians, Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, New Briton, New Ireland, New Guinea, Rabaul, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Kavieng, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, the Palaus, Anguar, Leyte Gulf, Battle of Surigao Strait, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
Dad saw both flags go up on Mount Suribachi during the intense fighting at Iwo Jima.
During the battle of Okinawa, the “Big T” came under heavy attack from Kamikaze. On the April 12th, the sixth kamikaze of the day made a head on run at the Big T’s bridge. The plane was hit several times and was on fire when it hit the right signal bridge where dad and another sailor were standing watch. Dad dove one way and his shipmate dove the other way. The right wing tip of the plane missed Dad by about 18 inches but his shipmate and 22 others were killed. More than 90 were injured.
The ship received heavy damage in the attack and she left the battle for a short time for repairs. During this time Dad was transferred to the USS Boyd, a Fletcher class Destroyer in need of a signalman. Dad spent the rest of his Navy duty on the Boyd as a part of the “Tin Can” Navy.
On July 19, 1946 Dad received an honorable discharge. At the time of his discharge he had attained the rate of Signalman Second Class. He was awarded the Phillippine Liberation Medal, the America Area Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal and the good conduct Medal.
Following his separation from the Navy, Dad returned to High School. He graduated from Burbank High School in 1947.
Dad’s first real job after the Navy and High School was a teller at the Bank of America in Saugus.
After High School Dad went to work for Art Frost an auto dealership in Glendale and he stayed in the automobile business for the rest of his working life.
In 1948 he met Dorothy Blose, the daughter of an automotive partsman. They were married August 19, 1949.
Pretty soon I came along, then Bob, then Dick, then Gary and finally Grant. Yes five boys.
There were a few things Dad loved to do. One was waterskiing. We learned to ski on the Back Bay at Newport Beach. This was before skiing had been perfected. We simply wrapped the rope around our hands and hollered “hit it”.
We continued water skiing nearly every summer weekend and was part of the ‘Mafia’ crew from Bishop that descended on Walker Lake for the next 15 years.
Dad loved the outdoors. Mom and Dad spent their honeymoon at Big Bear lake. Our summer vacations were always places like Bass Lake, Lake Isabella and especially the Eastern Sierra.
In 1958 Dad was offered the service managers job at Dean Knight Motors, in Bishop. Dad took the job and the seven of us moved to Bishop.
In 1960 Dad bought the Volkswagen Dealership and Bishop Imports was born. Then in 1969 Dad and his best friend, Bill Murphy bought the Volkswagen Dealership in Ridgecrest.
In 1968, Dad was appointed to the Bishop City Council. He served two terms and was Mayor of Bishop in 1973, 74 and 75.
Things were great in Bishop until early 1974 when Grant, our youngest brother was killed in a traffic accident. This changed all of us but especially it changed Dad. I don’t think Dad ever got over Grant’s death – rather he learned to live with it.
Dad always considered Bishop home but I think Grant’s death made it easier for him to move to Ridgecrest. They had sold the Dealership in Bishop and the Dealership in Ridgecrest needed all of his attention. He poured himself into his work but soon, as was his nature, he made many friends in Ridgecrest.
Waterskiing gave way to Golf and RVing. He invested in First Federal Savings and Loan in Ridgecrest and served as a board member for most of it’s existence.
Dad sold Murphy Motors in 1980, First Fed was sold in the early ‘90’s and Dad retired to their 7.5 Acres west of town.
Mom and Dad loved to do things with the family – it is simply their nature – family is what they did.
Something most of you probably don’t know – Dad loved science and particularly astronomy. One of my earliest recollections was a trip we took to the Mt. Wilson observatory.
He was fascinated by Albert Einstein. Dad’s explanations of Einstein’s theory of Relativity and the nuances of special relativity and general relativity were every bit as detailed as any I got in College.
Over the years Mom and Dad saw seven total solar eclipses. These solar eclipse treks included places like England, Ireland, South Africa, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Tahiti, Easter Island, Peru, Norway, China, and Japan - including a return to Iwo Jima. He saw his last Total Solar Eclipse this summer at my farm in Madras, Oregon.
Another thing Dad loved - USS Tennessee reunions. They went to nearly everyone. As dad got on in age, the numbers of attendees got smaller and smaller until the last reunion in 2016 with just eight of them in attendance.
So that’s Dad’s story – these are the things that defined him as the person he was.
Let’s think about this for a second. He grew up during the depression, his Father was killed when he was 11 and he went off to war when he was 15.
I remember what I was doing at 15 and I what my kids and grand kids were doing at 15.
You could say he went to war a boy and came home a man – but was he really ever “a boy” – certainly not if you look at what it is like to be a boy today.
Dad never considered himself a hero – those of his generation don’t. But he told me one time that he defined a hero as a person that did what had to be done even though he was scared to death. This seems as good a definition as any to me.
By this definition he WAS a hero. He spent his whole life doing what had to be done no matter how hard it was.
My last picture of Dad alive really defines him in my mind. He was lying in bed on his side facing mom who was lying next to him and facing him. He was desperately struggling to breath. Mom looked into his eyes and asked him if he was in pain. It took all of his strength but he reached out with both hands to comfort mom and said “it’s ok”. These were the last words he said.
As he lay there dying his concern was mom – he directed all of his effort to comfort her. He knew he was dying - I’m sure he was scared to death but he did what he had to do and he comforted mom. He is certainly a hero in my mind.
This is the character of this man. He will be missed.
Mom’s last image of Dad in her mind might be something different. Let me lay out the scene. A few years ago Dad had a pretty bad stroke. The Doctors did not expect him to walk again so we made a wheel chair ramp at their place with this expectation in mind.
But Dad would have none of it – he spent 100 days in re-hab forcing himself to walk again. He pushed through and finally was able to walk - after a fashion.
When he got home from re-hab he ignored that “damn” ramp and refused to use it. Whenever he left the house he would go up and down the back steps….. period end of report!
When Dad was being taken away, they rolled him down that damn ramp and mom started laughing through her tears. We looked at her in amazement and she said – there - he finally used the ramp!