Obituary of Robert S. Williams
Robert “Bob” Steven Williams passed away on April 12, 2023, in Charleston, South Carolina.
He was born in rural Iowa City on August 1, 1940, to Betty (Puckett) and Herb Williams, on the family’s Heritage farm. He became a big brother to Ed Williams eight years later. He was a baseball standout at City High in Iowa City and had a lifelong love of flying. He was selected for an ROTC scholarship at Iowa State University, where he was an active member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He graduated in 1963 and liked to say they created a degree “just for me to get me out of there.”
Bob was commissioned as a Naval officer in 1963, one of the first naval officers commissioned by the newly sworn in President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson on November 23, 1963. Captain Bob Williams affectionately received the nickname “Willard” and completed over 110 tactical error-free bombing combat missions in Vietnam, serving his country as the quintessential naval aviator before retiring in 1990. He also served as an A6 Landing Signal Officer (LSO), teaching aviators how to take off and land on aircraft carriers. He was on the deck of the USS Forrestal carrier off Vietnam in 1967 when an explosion caused a fire that killed 134 sailors and injured 161. He escaped the fan fire by opening the cockpit doors and jumping to the deck. He then assisted in carrying many injured sailors to Sickbay. Williams’ military awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, 10 Air Medals, 7 Navy Commendations and 7 Navy Achievement Medals, the Vietnam Campaign medal and a Vietnam Service medal. He retired in 1989 at the rank of Captain, and then became a commercial airline pilot for Piedmont, TWA and finally US Air, retiring in 2000.
Bob and his first wife, Nancy, had three daughters – Dana, Leslie and Lea. He was a proud girl dad and enjoyed attending their athletic and musical events. Once his beautiful grandchildren started to arrive, he so loved the new title his grandkids created, “GrandBob”. He was also an early pioneer of dad jokes!
Bob and his wife Peggy Wilson Williams have lived and made their home in Charleston, SC since 1993 and enjoyed golfing, boating, extensive traveling and spending time with friends and family. They were masters of annual Kentucky Derby celebrations. Bob loved the Chicago Cubs, attending games as a young boy when his uncle Bert Wilson was the broadcaster for the team in the 1950s. He was a lifelong Iowa Hawkeye fan and was honored at being selected as the “Military Hero of the Game” at the Iowa football Homecoming game on October 29, 2022.
He was a volunteer on the USS Yorktown for over 15 years, giving tours and sharing information with thousands of visitors. He was also a longtime member of the selective Quiet Birdmen, avid aviators who have a love for flying as evidenced by thousands of flying hours.
Bob is survived by his loving family: Peggy, his wife of more than 30 years; his daughters, Dana Simcox (Damian) and Leslie (Tim) Finer; son-in-law, Don Hedges; brother Ed (Susan), and grandchildren, Ashley (Loren) Sherman; Lexie, Riley and Jack Finer; and McKenna and Brady Simcox. He was preceded in death by his parents, Betty and Herb Williams, and his precious daughter, Lea Williams Hedges.
Visitation will take place at the Gay and Ciha Funeral Home in Iowa City on Sunday, April 23, 2023, from 3-5 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Monday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m., with burial to follow at Memory Gardens Cemetery where Military Honors will be bestowed.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Lea Williams Hedges Scholarship Fund at St. Olaf College (1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, MN 55057).