Bill Huff: 100 years of service

Born on April 6, 1924, William E. “Bill” Huff was reared in White Sulphur Springs and Renick, West Virginia. 

Bill spent most summers in Renick with his much-loved grandparents, learning about cattle, horses, and life in the country. 

There, he enjoyed many simple pleasures like eating his grandmother’s mincemeat before she could bake it into a pie, teaching his cousin Bob Whiting to ride the horse, attempting to dig “a hole to China” with Bob, and damming up the creek that later washed out the road during a torrential rainstorm.

Bill’s lifelong friends were Leo and Vincent O’Neil. They played high school football together at White Sulphur Springs High School. 

Immediately after graduation, Bill and Leo enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. They joined Vincent, who had previously enlisted in 1942 and who earned a Silver Star for his service.

Following his enlistment in 1943, Bill spent basic training at Parris Island in Beaufort, South Carolina, along with Leo. While in the midst of his training, Bill convinced his cousin Bob Whiting to leave the farm and experience the “wonderful” time he was having at Parris Island. He described it as a Country Club located in the town of Beaufort, SC which was full of beautiful women who loved Marines. 

After receiving this letter, Bob immediately enlisted, and until his death in 2018, Bob reminded Bill and everyone in attendance at almost every family event of the letter that Bill sent in 1943…which almost got him killed, but did earn him a Purple Heart.

Bill and Leo enjoyed their time together at Parris Island, so much so that they were forbidden from serving together at the same post. 

After basic training, Bill became an instructor. He taught recruits how to shoot before they were assigned to gunnery positions. Not satisfied with limiting his service stateside, he asked to be sent overseas and became a tail gunner on a PBM torpedo bomber, flying missions in the Pacific.

When the war ended, Bill was assigned for approximately six months to the force that occupied Japan. He witnessed the devastation personally, flying low over both Nagasaki and Hiroshima after both had been bombed. He received one citation for flying 30 missions in 30 days. 

After returning to the United States, he was honorably discharged from the Second Air Wing, having served with the 131 Squadron and attaining the rank of sergeant.

Following his discharge from the Marines in March 1946, Bill enrolled at West Virginia University. He later transferred to West Virginia Tech, where he obtained his 

He and Leo returned to their hometown of White Sulphur Springs. Leo’s little sister, Margaret, helped Bill through some post-war trauma. She had been a nurse in the military. They fell in love and got married. 

Bill and Margert raised four children together, always stressing faith, family, and country. They built a home on the same street as Leo, raising their families together. 

Bill taught school, served on the local school board, built homes, raised cattle, and was named on the 1960 Greenbrier County ballot with President John F. Kennedy during a run for the school board.

Second to his service in the Marines, Bill is most proud of providing college educations for his children and serving as the associate superintendent for the Greenbrier County Schools. He oversaw building the two high schools that consolidated the many small county high schools into two large high schools to provide better educational opportunities for the students of Greenbrier County.

Leo was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. In the later part of the disease, Bill came to Leo’s house every night to help get him ready for bed and spend time with his best friend. Bill’s motto was and is: “You never leave a Marine behind.”

At 100 years old, he is still active politically, sharing his views openly and supporting local and national candidates for election. His views are well known by the signs in his yard!

Helping others in need is something that he has done his entire life. He still mows the yards of several of his neighbors while driving his new John Deere tractor. His last words to everyone when they visit or call is always, “Let me know if you need anything, and I’ll be right there.” Which is the sentence that defines his life.

At 100 years old, Bill’s legacy of service, kindness, and generosity continues to inspire. He epitomizes a life well-lived.

As we celebrate Bill’s centennial milestone, we honor his extraordinary journey and extend our heartfelt congratulations as we name Bill Huff as the certified Real West Virginian of the Week.

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