ROSWELL, Ga. – America has lost another World War II veteran. Roswell resident Bill Wichser died April 27, 2014 at the age of 98.
Wichser (pronounced Wix-er) was born in 1915 and grew up in Tell City, Indiana, a small town of Swiss immigrants on the southern tip of the state along the Ohio River.
He was a pilot at age 16 in the early 1930s when such a career was new, and gained notoriety as a stunt daredevil. He parachuted from planes for fun and the amazement of crowds in Indiana.
During the war, Wichser signed up and served on the destroyer escort ship USS Gentry in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific theaters.
“I wanted to get in there and see what it was all about,” he said.
Not only did he serve in all theaters of the war, he took souvenirs in the form of photographs of his travels.
“[A camera] was really against regulations, a very serious offense,” he said in an interview last year, “but I wanted to take pictures.”
He took dozens of photos, snapping pictures of his travels. Everything was fair game for his lens, be it Pacific locals, shipmates or the horrors of war.
After the war, Wichser returned to Indiana where he became a race car owner and mechanic at the Indianapolis 500 while working in real estate and construction.
He spent just over seven years in Roswell, living with his son Karl and his family, daughter-in-law Edith and grandson Alexander.
He lived a rich, colorful and long life. Wichser had optimistically renewed his AARP membership for a further five years and lived quite the life.
“He never understood why he lived so long,” Karl said.
When was asked what his secret was for living so long, he would answer, “Not living a clean life.”
Legally blind, Bill still insisted on reading his newspapers and would use a magnifier to see the type or listen to books on tape.
“He never lost his cognitive skills,” Karl said.
Bill was in such great health, his family was looking forward to his 100th birthday party. And so was he – he had already started planning it, making sure to invite the pretty ladies first.
He loved spending time with his grandson, Alexander. Every time Alexander would have friends over, Bill would give them cookies and took the time to get to know everyone.
Wichser died Sunday, April 27, 2014, at the age of 98, of complications from a subdural hematoma. He was buried in his family plot in Tell City, Indiana, beside his wife and family.