William Joseph “Bill” Parson, Sr., 85, passed away at his home in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.
Bill was born Nov. 23, 1937, in Binghamton, New York to Albert E. and Lillian L. (Roy) Parson. After high school Bill attended the New York State Ranger School - State University College of Forestry Syracuse University. Soon thereafter he jumped on a westbound train matriculating at the University of Idaho, graduating with a degree in forestry.
Bill then joined the United States Marine Corps in 1961, becoming a Naval aviator piloting his beloved A-4 Skyhawk and serving nearly six years in active duty which included a nine-month tour in Vietnam where Bill spent several harried nights in the jungle after his surveillance plane crashed during a mission into the side of a mountain due to severe weather during monsoon season. Bill was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 1966, achieving many flight qualifications including flight instructor at Cherry Point, N.C., and weapons handler and nuclear weapons currier. His military awards include Air Medal with Gold Star, Vietnamese Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Following military service Bill headed west yet again putting his degree to direct use working for 30 years in the forestry business in Montana beginning with Burlington Northern Railroad and ending his distinguished civilian career as Director of Resources for the Rocky Mountain Region with what evolved into BN Timberlands and then Plum Creek Timber Company (now present-day Weyerhaeuser). Upon Bill’s retirement in 1995 he was awarded “The Grandfather of Environmental Forestry” distinction for leading efforts in resource innovation, repurposing production waste byproducts, and meeting the increasing demands in responsible forestry.
Bill’s love of flying and airplanes followed him into civilian life; completing the complicated blueprint build of a tail drag airplane from scratch in 1980 while living in Bozeman; and building a designed for kit construction high wing, strut braced Avid Flyer completed in 1993. He fearlessly piloted these experimental homebuilt aircraft well into his later years in both the Gallatin and Flathead valleys. He proudly and passionately served as director of the USAF Thunderbird Airshow held here at Glacier Park International Airport in the early 1990s and relished the opportunity to expose an endeavor he found so exhilarating to the younger generation in the Flathead Valley and to all his fellow Montanans.
There was seemingly nothing Bill couldn’t do when he put his mind to it. If he was in your corner, you unquestionably had an advocate you could count on. He enjoyed challenging himself regularly, as well as anyone sturdy enough to join him — be it on hikes atop Glacier’s highest peaks, within the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and Montana forests — to Alaska moose and caribou hunts, to flying into remote areas, racing sailboats on Flathead Lake out of North Flathead Yacht Club where he served a term as Commodore in 1997; or planning travel to the likes of Germany, New Zealand, Honduras, the Ambergris Caye, Belize, trekking Copper Canyon Mexico on bike and foot, or sailing adventures throughout the Caribbean and Virgin Isles.
Planning such adventures, spending time with his family and making memories while doing so was what it was all about to Bill. An avid sportsman and outdoorsman; his hobbies too numerous to list included shooting trap, sailing, downhill skiing, and spending time on Hungry Horse Reservoir; but spending a lifetime successfully chasing the elusive wapiti and packing out elk himself well into his late 70s was undoubtedly his favorite Montana memory making activity.
Bill is preceded in death by his parents; his older, Brother Albert C. “Al” Parson; his niece, Darci Parson; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Bill is survived by his three children, Jennifer Marie Parson (Braley), William Joseph Parson, Jr., Christopher Albert brother Brian D. Parson, wife Marsha and their family out of Missoula and Troy.To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Joseph Parson Sr., please visit our flower store.