William (Bill) Joseph Hinkelman
December 12, 1926 – January 25, 2021
Richland, Washington – William (Bill) Joseph Hinkelman passed away peacefully of natural causes at the age of 94 on Monday, January 25, 2021 at Guardian Angels Homes in Richland, Washington with family by his side. He had a wonderful life and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him.
Bill was born at his parent’s home in Williamsport, PA on December 12, 1926. His parents were John Ward Hinkelman and Clara Ofelia Koehler. He was the third son, following brothers John (Jack) W. Hinkelman Jr and Thomas David Hinkelman.
He and his brothers attended St. Boniface Church and school through 6th grade and attended 7th-9th grades at Curtin Junior High. All three were Boy Scouts and Bill attained the rank of Eagle Scout and became acting Scoutmaster in 1943 when most men were in World War II service. He went to Williamsport High School where he played football and ran track. His mile relay team took first place at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, and placed second in the State Championship meet in State College PA. He was a two letterman in track and graduated in 1944.
During the war years, Bill first worked for the Forest Service out of Coeur d’Alene, ID (among his duties was fighting forest fires), he then enlisted into the Merchant Marines. Bill served aboard the Raphael Symms, but also sailed on the Koloa Victory and the Chanute Victory. He sailed all over Europe, Brazil, through the Panama Canal to Japan and back to the US. Throughout his time at sea, he cruised a total of 75,000 miles and while he enjoyed it, decided it was not the life for him and resigned September of 1946.
On November 11, 1946, he met Catharine (Kay) Cochran, became engaged and they were later married on January 31, 1949 in Williamsport by Bill’s uncle, Ralph Hinkelman, at the United Methodist Church. During the late 40’s and into the early 50’s, Bill attended Lycoming College but later enrolled at Penn State to study Metallurgy and graduated with a BS degree in June 1951.
His first post-graduate job took him to San Francisco with Federated Metals. He and Kay greatly enjoyed living in this lovely city, particularly at Twin Peaks where they had a view of the harbor and Bay Bridge. In June 1952, Bill was drafted in the army and had basic at Fort Ord, CA. He was subsequently transferred to the Red River Arsenal near Texarkana, TX where Kay soon joined him. Their eldest, Sherry, was born in this two-state city in January 1954.
Discharged later that year, Bill soon joined US Steel at the Duquesne Works in Duquesne, PA, near Pittsburgh. Two years later he landed a job with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation at the Bettis Laboratory which developed nuclear reactors for the US Navy. Through a variety of moves around the Pittsburgh area, three more daughters followed: Linda in February 1955, Kathy in June 1958 and 5 years later, Laurie in April 1963.
In 1972 Bill was transferred to Idaho Falls, ID where he worked as a Manager of Quality Control at the Naval Reactors Facility. He oversaw over 30 people including 25 inspectors, 5 engineers and 2 supervisors, where they were involved in training Navy personnel for the Nuclear Navy. In 1975 he moved to Richland WA where he worked for Westinghouse Hanford. There he headed a group of inspectors, engineers and two supervisors who were involved in the design and development of a breeder reactor, known as the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) for the newly renamed Nuclear Regulatory Commission and then newly created Department of Energy. Bill stayed with Westinghouse Hanford until he retired in 1988.
Bill and Kay believed in vacations, both during their girls’ formative years and then after Bill retired. Early trips included historic sites at Gettysburg, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia in PA, Richmond and Roanoke VA, as well as Kitty Hawk and the Outer Banks in NC. While in Idaho, many a vacation was taken at the Flying B Ranch, a resort ranch on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Idaho wilderness. Entry was by plane, river raft, horse or foot! Despite its isolation, the Flying B produced its own electricity, generating power using water from nearby Bush Creek. Daytime activities included horseback riding, hiking, swimming, and learning how to shoot the rapids on the Middle Fork, while nighttime activities included pool or playing cards (there was no television, telephone and certainly no computers or internet). Everyone slept well at the “B” in rustic private cabins which included electricity, heat and inside toilets.
After retirement, Kay and Bill travelled all over the US and Canada in a variety of RVs. They visited each of the 48 states and found each state had a good many unique offerings. During their travels they discovered Green Valley AZ, a community strictly for retirees. They bought a house in 1999, and during their decade there, Bill became President of the local Homeowners Association for six years. They remained physically active using some of the 12 recreation centers in GV by hiking (Bill), line dancing (Kay), and swimming and playing bridge (both). While living in GV, Bill became a docent at the nearby Titan Missile Museum and gave tours at the facility.
In 2009, health issues dictated a change of address from Green Valley back to Richland WA, to be closer to family. The following decade and more had highs and lows as Kay and Bill’s health slowly declined. Bill’s beloved Kay passed away this past year (June 2020).
In 2014 Bill wrote a chronical about his life entitled “The First 87 Years in the Life of Bill Hinkelman”. At the end of the chronical he wrote:
“Before I close, I have a message, especially for the grandchildren. In our travels, Kay and I have visited almost all of the National Parks in the United States. Our four daughters were with us on some of these trips. I believe this was one of the best things we did for our girls. I urge you to do the same for your children in order that they will understand what a great nation America has become.”
Currently, there are no services planned. Both Bill and Kay have been cremated and their ashes will be interred at the Wildwood Cemetery in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Bill and Kay leave behind four daughters, six grandsons (Zachary Zoeller, Jack Thompson, Matthew Hinkelman, Nicolas Hinkelman, Kamandi Roberts, and Killian Roberts) and one granddaughter (Kelsey Thompson). Donations in memory of William (Bill) Hinkelman can be sent to pbs.org or pimaair.org/get-involved/donate/ which supports the Titan Missile Museum.
Published in & from Feb. 20 to Feb. 21, 2021.