William (Bill) Alphonso Furlan of Watervliet passed away peacefully in his sleep June 22, 2020 at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph at the age of 101. He had a long and wonderful life. Per his wishes cremation has taken place.
Services with military honors will be held graveside at North Shore Memory Gardens, North M63, Coloma at 11:00 a.m. on July 8 where family will greet guests graveside at the Last Supper, north side of cemetery, thirty minutes prior to the service. Please wear face masks and practice social distancing when appropriate. The family invites visitors for a short time at Bill’s home after the service for a light lunch. Those wishing to make an online remembrance may do so at hutchinsfuneral.com. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in Bill’s name to the American Legion or to Earth Justice at www.earthjustice.org.
Bill was born in Chicago on October 19, 1918. When he was approximately 8 years old, his father bought a 40 acre farm just west of Hartford and moved the family to Michigan. The CSX railroad bisected that 40 acres and as children, when the coal trains went by, the boys would throw fruit and vegetables to the men “riding the rails” and they in turn, would throw coal back to them. The boys would gather up the lumps of coal and take it home for fuel.
Bill went to grade school in a one-room school house just down the road from the farm. He spent his high school years at Watervliet where he was an avid and talented football player. He remembered running the four miles from the farm to the high school and then running back home after practice. His was the first class to graduate from the “new” high school in 1937.
His brothers, Charles (Chuck) and Arthur (Toots), introduced him to boxing. The three of them would train regularly and compete in bouts all across Michigan. Bill was a Golden Gloves Champion many times and continued to box after joining the Army.
Bill entered active military duty on December 26, 1942. He was stationed primarily in the European Theater serving in battles and campaigns in Normandy, Northern France and The Rhineland. He was assigned to B Company, 358th Engineers. He served as a truck driver with truck company 3626, taking troops to their assigned regiments, bringing them back when their tour was over and providing provisions to the men throughout the war.
Bill’s company was part of the Red Ball Express, the famed truck convoy system that supplied the Allied forces moving quickly throughout Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in 1944. Bill remembered delivering fresh oranges to Gen. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Paris and still has one of the oranges (although it looks more like a walnut now). He also had a fond memory of driving his truck under the Eiffel Tower during a black out with the MPs trying to flag him down. He just smiled, waved back and kept right on going. That was Bill.
He was discharged with honors on December 15, 1945 being awarded the EAME Ribbon with five Bronze Stars for meritorious service in a combat zone, the Good Conduct Medal and the Victors Medal World War II.
Bill married Mary Jane Newnum of Coloma on April 19, 1942 and upon his return from WWII they made their home in Watervliet where they lived and raised three children, Sharon Sue, Mark William, and Larry Allen. During that time he was employed by Auto Specialties of St. Joe as a Supervisor until his retirement. Bill and Jane enjoyed golfing, boating, bowling, gardening and wintering in Florida together. They were married for more than 63 years until Jane’s passing in 2006.
The past four years Bill lived at home with his daughter Sharon. He enjoyed “watching the world go by”, walks down his driveway, his birds at the feeders, flowers, cookies and taking rides in the car. He continued to amaze his family and friends with quips and humorous memories until his death. He attributed his long life to growing up on the farm eating fresh foods, not smoking or drinking and trying not to take things too seriously.
Bill is survived by his daughter Sharon Sue Furlan, his son Larry Allen (wife Anitta) Furlan and a multitude of nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Jane and son Mark William Furlan, his parents Guiseppe (Joe) Furlan and Emma (Volterol) Furlan, his brothers Charles (Alma) Furlan, Oliver (Millie) Furlan, Arthur (Gloria) Furlan, and sisters Marcella (Ed) Caffereta, and Ida (Bill) Kozelink.
For additional information and a short video about Bill’s life please visit YouTube.com and look for Tribute to Bill Furlan.
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