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William “Bill” Britton, 97, of Bemidji, MN died Saturday, March 30, 2019 at Neilson Place, Bemidji.
Graveside services with Full Military Honors will be 9:30 A.M. Friday, May 17, 2019 at Greenwood Cemetery, Bemidji followed by a Memorial Service at 10:00 A.M. Friday, May 17, at Neilson Place, Bemidji. Arrangements are entrusted to the Olson-Schwartz Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Bemidji.
William Giering Britton, the son of Enoch and Pearl Britton, was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, on September 25, 1921. The family moved to Decatur, IL in 1929, where “Bill” graduated from Decatur High School in 1939 and earned a BS degree in chemistry from James Millikin University in 1943. He was inducted into the US Army Air Corps in February, 1943 for potential service in World War II. He married Henrietta Bernice Kortum on October 16, 1943, and immediately deployed to the Pacific Theater where he served as a weather officer and air traffic controller. During most of his post-war life Bill remained a member of the Air Force Reserves and served as a liaison officer to the Air Force Academy until he retired as a Colonel in 1979. He was an active member of the VFW, the American Legion, and Forty and Eight.
After the war, Bill completed his MS degree in chemistry at the University of Illinois, Champaign. In 1947, he moved to Bemidji to teach chemistry at Bemidji State Teachers College. He completed his PhD in Chemistry in 1956 at the University of Colorado, Boulder, while continuing to teach at Bemidji. While at Bemidji State, Bill served on the Athletic Board of Control of the Northern Intercollegiate Conference for 25 years, directed six summer institutes that provided continuing education to high school science teachers on the use of radioisotopes and directed many regional Science Fairs. He retired from BSU in 1982.
Bill was also a very active member of the community. The first service organization Bill joined in Bemidji was the Lions Club. He was a member until his death and participated in many, many fund-raising events. He served as Tail-Twister for decades and received the prestigious Melvin Jones Award. Bill was also a member of the Elks Lodge and was a charter member of the Headwaters Science Center. Later in life, Bill became active in Masonic organizations; He became a Master Mason in 1983 and was a member of the York Rite organizations, the Oriental Shrine, and in 1984 he became a member of the Order of Eastern Star. In 1990 he received the Hiram Award for meritorious service.
Bill became even more active after retirement. He was Special Gifts Chairman of the United Way from 1986 to 2000, and worked with community meals and Habitat for Humanity. Bill served as Executive Director of the Bemidji Senior Citizen’s Center, promoted the AARP 55-Alive defensive driving and Tax counseling for the Elderly programs, was president of the local AARP chapter for two years and served as treasurer for many years. In 1993 he and Henrietta were chosen Outstanding Senior Citizens of Beltrami County. In 1997 he was named Volunteer of the Year at the eighth annual Bemidji Volunteer Recognition luncheon for his work with 11 different volunteer organizations. In 2002 they were honored by the Senior Center for outstanding community service and Governor Jesse Ventura designated November 10, 2002 as Bill and Henrietta Britton Day.
Bill and his family were members of the United Methodist Church where Bill sang bass in the choir until he was over 90 years old. He loved to sing and was also active in the Bemidji Barbershoppers.
Magic was always a part of Bill’s life. He used magic as teaching aids in his classrooms and provided entertainment at many community functions. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and rarely left the house without a few magic tricks in his pockets.
Bill is survived by four children, David Britton of Richmond, KY, John (Mary) Britton of Anchorage, AK, Sarah (Gary) Krenz of Milwaukee,WI, Barbara Britton of Ypsilanti, MI; and three grandchildren, Amy Britton, Sarah Britton, and Geoffrey Britton.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Marion (Frank) Jones, and his wife, Henrietta.
Online guestbook at www.OlsonSchwartzFuneralHome.com
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