Bill Kielkopf, 92, of Arizona, formerly of Cedar Rapids, died of natural causes on April 16, 2015, at his home in San Tan Valley, Arizona, with his wife and family at his bedside. Bill and his family were compassionately supported by Banner Hospice.
Bill Kielkopf was born Aug. 19, 1922, in Ottumwa, Iowa, to William and Mae Grimsley Kielkopf. Bill married Marjorie Louise (Sis) Howard on June 23, 1948, in Ottumwa.
Bill joined the United States Army in 1942. After scoring in the top 2 percent on Army intelligence testing, Bill was sent to radio operator’s school in Kansas City, Missouri, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. He was assigned to the 8th Combat Cargo Squadron as a radio operator on C-46 and C-47 aircraft. He served in the South Pacific from Australia to the Philippines to Japan. He was honorably discharged in 1945 after the end of WWII with the rank of staff sergeant. In his later years, Bill often told how he had loved flying every day and was fortunate to have served in the Army Air Corps with some great pilots. He also said he was still amazed that a kid from Ottumwa’s west end could have seen so much of the United States and the world.
Bill also loved baseball and fast-pitch softball. He was starting outfielder for the Ottumwa American Legion state championship baseball team in 1939. He also starred for some of the best fast-pitch softball teams in Iowa in the 1940s and 50s.
His love for baseball led him to Little League coaching where he assisted with the John Deere Browns from 1958 through 1963 when the Browns won several Ottumwa city championships. Bill also served as the head coach of the Ottumwa American LL All-Stars and led them to second place finishes in the state tournament in both 1962 and 1963.
Bill was a long-time member of the Wildwood Evangelical Free Church of Ottumwa. He and Sis also enjoyed square dancing in the 1950s, and Bill was a former president of the Southeast Iowa Square Dancers Association. One of his favorite dance tunes was “The Alabama Jubilee.” As a WWII veteran, Bill also was a long-time member of the Ottumwa’s O.B. Nelson Post #3 of the American Legion.
Bill was a lifelong fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Cubs and spent much of his time following his favorite teams on radio, TV, and in person. Some of his favorite athletes and coaches were Lou Gehrig, Nile Kinnick, Bob Feller, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandburg, Ronnie Lester, Forest Evashevski, Lute Olson, Hayden Fry, boxer Joe Louis, and golfer Ben Hogan. He was also a big fan of President Kennedy.
Bill worked at Ottumwa’s John Morrell & Co. meat-packing plant for about 25 years until he moved to Cedar Rapids where he worked for the Quaker Oats Co. until his retirement in 1993. He never missed a day’s work in his entire life. He also was a self-taught handyman.
He moved to San Tan Valley, Arizona, in 2009. In 2006 he wrote and published a short memoir called That’s the Way It Was: Random Recollections from a West End Kid.
Surviving are his wife of 66 years, Marge; his children Mike (Mary) Kielkopf of Waterloo, Iowa; Blaine Kielkopf of San Tan Valley, Arizona; Wayne (Linda) Kielkopf of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Carol (Paul) Crosby of Santa Paula, California; Nancy (Les) Grooms of Macon, Missouri; and Whitney Baskett of Corpus Christi, Texas; grandchildren Matt Kielkopf of Los Angeles, California; Derek Kielkopf of Norman, Oklahoma; Dustin Kielkopf of Jacksonville, Florida; Amy Cash of Ottumwa, Iowa; Anthony Kielkopf of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Nicole Kielkopf of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Mark (Terri) Grooms of Macon, Missouri; Brent (Lindsay) Grooms of Atlanta, Georgia; Michelle (James) March of San Jose, California; and 16 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his stepfather Pearl Niles, and several brothers and sisters.
According to his wishes, Bill will be cremated. A private memorial service with full military honors is planned for the Memorial Lawn Cemetery in Ottumwa.