May 22, 1931 - March 31, 2009
Bill "Spike" Wright, husband, father, friend passed from this life on March 31, 2009, in Bend, Oregon.
Spike spent 23 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. His flying abilities were such that he was one of an elite few to represent the Air Force in a Navy exchange program. Here he further honed his skills during night carrier operations from the deck of the U.S.S. Forrestal. Flying was his passion, and his innate abilities, combined with years of experience would later serve him and his country well.
During his two tours in Vietnam in the F4 Phantom, he received many service decorations. However, medals were never a priority for him. Despite flying through heavily defended air space in the North, he was very proud that he never lost one of his men while flying lead.
Indeed, his fellow pilots would later recall how Spike would always place the success of the mission and his squadrons' safety above any strict interpretation of the rules of engagement. His distinguished military career was followed by a stint as a Captain for the Royal Hawaiian Air Service in Hawaii.
Bill grew up in Westwood, Southern California. From an early age he understood the value of hard work, delivering the morning paper before school in the "largest paper route in the history of L.A." (his words). He was a tremendous athlete that excelled in track at UCLA, where he graduated in 1954. In addition to his love for flying and organized athletics, Bill loved to chase the perfect wave in Malibu as a pioneer in long board surfing.
Following his career in aviation, Bill retired in Tucson, AZ. He was involved in the Tucson community as the President of the Roncon Optimist Club and he volunteered as an usher at St. Pius Church for many years.
He will be remembered for his sharp wit, courage, and strength of character. He spent the good times as a golf hack, restoring his 1960 Porsche and doing some amateur Indian fire dancing fueled by a few cold beers. He also loved the great views afforded by his beautiful patch of land in the foothills of Tucson.
Bill fought the long fight with Parkinson's disease. He handled his plight with much humor, dignity and grace. In doing so, he taught us all many invaluable lessons about how life is to be lived.
He is survived by his best friend and wife, Earlene, whom he referred to as Skipper, and his six children, Chris Haywood (Guy), of Kula, HI; Terri MacDonald of Kailua, HI; Mike Wright of Tucson, AZ; Kim Smythe (Timothy) of Bend, OR; Tracey Wright of Bend, OR; and Chuck Wright (Natalie) of Bend, Oregon. He was proud of his nine grandchildren, Erin Haywood, Jennifer Derby, Kale Haywood, Ian Smythe, Carli Smythe, Kelley MacDonald, Colby Smythe, Christina Haywood and Tracey MacDonald. He treasured the love and support of his sister, Dorothy Barrett and her daughter Alicia Stickley. He was thankful for the friendship and good times with his in-laws, Milt and Marilyn Heflin, and their children; Lorie Rulon, Scott Tinley, Jeff Tinley, Greg Tinley, Lisa Brown, Linda Kenney, Ted Tinley, and Ryan Heflin.
In an expression of deep gratitude his family encourages a memorial donation to Partners in Care (formerly Hospice of Bend) in lieu of flowers.
Please send any memorial contributions to Partners in Care, 2075 NE Wyatt Court, Bend, OR 97701.
To all of those who have shared his love, friendship and kindly cared for him; we are grateful. Cheers and tailwinds...
Bill "Spike" Wright