Obituary of William Thomas Gorman
William Thomas (Bill) Gorman, Lt Col, USAF (ret) of Tucson, passed away May 19, 2019, just a few weeks short of 87. A fighter pilot and decorated war veteran, he was also a beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Even after sending 4 children to college, Bill had been astute enough to enable himself and his wife to live the past 39 years in Tucson doing as he pleased. He stayed too busy to be called “retired.” Born at home on a farm near Hartford, Kansas in July 1932, his delivery cost his father 2 bushels of wheat. Bill spent his first two decades laboring in his tenant-farmer father's fields, along with working for his uncles and various neighbors. Even before he started driving a tractor at age 7, he was plowing behind a horse. The barnyard animals required care before and after school throughout his childhood, but he allowed that although he might have to catch the chicken for dinner, his mother did the beheading. The 4th of 8 children on a farm during the Great Depression, he didn't have a lot of possessions, and the family lost much of what they had in two different floods during his early years. He was quarterback of his high school football team, also lettered in baseball and basketball, and was senior class president. Like his older brothers, Bill decided farming was not his future, so he earned a degree in accounting from Kansas State while working two part-time jobs, joining Phi Kappa (Theta) and Air Force ROTC. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the AF Reserves upon graduation in 1954 and sent to pilot training, thus trading the wheat fields of Kansas for the wild blue yonder.
After flight training at Marana, AZ and Greenville, MS, Bill's 1st plane was the F-94, an Air Defense Command asset. He also flew the F-102, the EC-121, the F-4, the F-100 and was mission commander in the E-3 AWACS. He also logged hours in the L-20, C-118, C-47 and T-38. He flew off the coast of Cuba during the Missile Crisis, deployed to the Republic of Korea after the capture of the Navy ship USS Pueblo by the Democratic Republic of Korea,and served a year tour in the Republic of Viet Nam. As an Instructor Pilot, Bill had the privilege of checking out famed aviators Chuck Yeager and Robin Olds on a new version of the F-4. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal and 11 Air Medals. He retired from the Air Force at 26 years of service.
During his flight training at Marana, he was coerced into a blind double date, and discovered he liked the other guy's date better than his own. It took a couple months before he asked that U of Arizona co-ed out, and it turned out she liked Bill better than her date that fateful night. So, Mary Ellen McEver of Coronado, CA and Bill wed in 1955. They had 4 children and were together for 63½ years, until Bill's death.
After his Air Force career, Bill and Mary Ellen in 1980 returned to the city where they'd met and courted. Both have had very active “retirements.” Bill enjoyed golfing with his buddies some days and with his wife others; he and Mary Ellen square-danced, often twice a week; he played bridge with friends and family; served at St Pius X Catholic Church as an usher at the children's mass (including the Sunday just prior to his death) and substitute extra-ordinary communion minister; high impact aerobics and circuit training 3 times a week up until 9 months ago; and traveling with his wife to visit friends and family in Kansas, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota and Maryland as well as more local tours with the Westerners. He loved having company and never tired of showing them his favorite haunts in Tucson, with Sabino Canyon and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at the top of the list. He lived life to its fullest, and very much on his own terms, until practically the day of his death. Bill had the honor of commissioning his oldest daughter and his oldest granddaughter in the USAF. His trademark was the required gin/vodka martini with a twist, one every day at precisely 5pm. He even had a martini travel case, and his 3 sons-in-law learned to make them Bill's way. Exceptions you ask? Just one: Lent.
He is survived by his loving wife, Mary Ellen, his children Mary Colleen Gorman (Lawrence Howell), William J Gorman II, Judy Prinkey (Kenneth), and Katy Gorman Zukis. He is also survived by his sister Eleanor Bruske, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and more than 30 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, William J and Mary A Gorman and siblings Joe, Margaret, Jim, Barbara, Jerry and Richard.
His family will remember him as a man who knew service and hard work and whose expectations of his family were high, but not higher than his expectations of himself. One last time he has “slipped the surly bonds of earth...put out [his] hand, and touched the face of God.”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Primavera Foundation, St Elizabeth's Clinic or the Tucson Community Food Bank.