Wester, Billy I.

Baker City, Oregon

Billy I. Wester, 81, of Baker City died Oct. 23, 2001, at St. Elizabeth Health Services.

His memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Coles-Strommer Funeral Home, 1950 Place St. Associate Pastor Bob Whiteman of the Baker City Christian Church will officiate. Military rites will be provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 3048.

Mr. Wester was born on May 4, 1920, at Edna, Kan. He was the son of J. I. and Nettie Storm Wester. He received his education at Edna and graduated from high school in May 1937. He began his employment working on board a U.S. Engineer Department boat in West Memphis, Ark. In January 1938, after attending Kansas State Teachers College, he went to work maintaining and installing telephone lines and equipment for Mutual Telephone Co., in Edna, Kan.

In May 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and began his flying career. After receiving his training in airplane and engine mechanics, he was assigned to the 5th Liaison Squadron, Alamo Field in San Antonio, Texas.

He was one of the first in the Air Corp. to receive the rating of liaison pilot. In February 1944, the squadron transferred to China, Burma and India Theater.

While in the Far East, he helped support an outfit known as Merrill’s Marauders, a famous American unit during World War II. Flying an L-1 and L-5 plane for air reconnaissance for the Merrill’s Marauders was sometimes an ordeal and oftentimes dangerous.

After the war, he continued his service as a pilot in the Air Corps, serving in Barksdale Field, La.; Memphis, Tenn.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Panama Canal Zone; Costa Rica; and Nicaragua.

In October 1948, he re-enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned as assistant aviation advisor for the Kansas National Guard. In December 1951, he was assigned to the 6th Transportation Helicopter Co. He helped set up a training program for pilots. In this unit, he also provided direct support for front-line troops in Korea.
In November 1953, he was transferred to the 4th Transportation Helicopter Co. in Bridgeport, Conn. He was in charge of monitoring the development of the XH-39 helicopter in which he established the world speed and altitude records. After the assignment was over, he returned to the 4th Transportation Helicopter Co. at Fort Benning, Ga.

From April 1955 until December, 1956, Mr. Wester was assigned to the 345th Transportation Battalion (helicopter) at Fort Sill, Okla. He later was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky.
In January 1958 through early 1960, he was assigned to the Executive Flight Detachment, which was in charge of flying President Eisenhower. His group was know as the “Presidential Flight Detachment” and were on standby to be dispatched at a moment’s notice. Mr. Wester continued to fly for the U.S. government until he retired from military service on April 30, 1965 as chief warrant officer 3.

During his distinguished military career, he received many commendations, which included the Distinguished Flying Cross with two clusters (awarded three times) and the Air Medal with four clusters.

On June 25, 1977, he and Claire Curtis were married at the Baker City Golf Course. During the winter months, they would travel to Casa Grande, Ariz.

Mr. Wester loved to golf, fish, and hunt. He was a history buff and enjoyed reading. He was a Shriner and member of the Masonic Lodge and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He is survived by wife, Claire Wester of Baker City; sister, Mary Lee Triebel; son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Connie Wester of Carthage, Texas; daughter and son-in-law, Cindy and Louie Dias, of Manteca, Calif; and son, Jeffrey Wester, Manteca, Calif.; step-daughters, Theresa Curtis of Medford, Kathleen and her husband, Jerry Yencopal, of Baker City, Cindy and her husband, Jim Jesseph, of Riverton, Wyo., and Carleen Curtis of Portland; grandchildren, Amanda and Brian Hill, Jason and Sara Dias, Joel Dias, and Bobby Wester; five great-grandchildren, six stepgrandchildren, and three stepgreat-grandchildren. He is also survived by a very close, dear friend, Elmer Swartz of Dallas, Texas.

He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Robert Don Wester, Leon Wester and T.E. Wester; sisters, Rosalind Parker, and Katherine Roberts; half brother, Dorsey Wester; and grandson, Bill John Wester.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children or the Eastern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross through Coles-Strommer Funeral Home, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814.

Used with permission from: The Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, October 26, 2001
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor


White, Judy Wallis. Baker County, Oregon Obituaries. Published by AccessGenealogy.com. Copyright 1999-2013, all rights reserved.

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