William Thomas Cantrell sailed into the world on September 16, 1935, and shipped out on May 3, 2020. He was born in Clovis, NM, to Helen and Kermit Thomas. His birth name was William Dallas Thomas. He later changed his name to William Thomas Cantrell, using the surname of his step father, Willford Lee Cantrell.
Bill was a responsible person at a young age. When the headlines announced the end of World War II, Bill was selling newspapers on a street corner in Ontario, California. While he had an entrepreneurial spirit, he wasn’t too keen on school. One of his teachers remarked that Bill was an excellent student – one of the best – whenever he decided to show up. On one occasion the principal stopped by the house to inquire about Bill’s health, because he hadn’t been to school for such a long time. When Bill’s mother assured the principal that Bill was fine, the principal provided her with an assortment of written notes, supposedly written by her, to excuse Bill from school because he was ill. However, when the family moved to Caliente, NV, and Bill attended his Senior year of high school in Panaca, he was diligent in his attendance. He enjoyed the shop classes that stimulated his creative side.
After Bill graduated from Lincoln County High School in 1953, he married Kathleen Rasmussen and they had a daughter in 1954, Teri Lee Cantrell. During this time, Bill worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and also for the mines in Tempiute, NV. However, things didn’t work out and Bill headed east to Ohio where his biological father lived.
It was there that Bill decided to join the Navy. Shortly after enlisting he met Kathryn Clifford (Kay) from Portsmouth, Ohio, and they were married in 1956. Together they raised three sons: Richard Lee Cantrell, William Scott Cantrell and Steven Mark Cantrell. Together sometimes meant “not so much together”. When Bill was gone on tours of duty, it was up to Kay to take care of the family in his absence. They were a great team.
Bill’s naval career spanned 20 years and he achieved many accomplishments during his years of service. During his active time in the Navy he served as a Radar man on the John Paul Jones, a destroyer, in Vietnam. He served as a Drill Instructor at the Naval Training Center in San Diego and he also was a counselor and behaviorist for substance abuse, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. He also served on many WestPac tours.
Bill was a competent marksman with a pistol and competed for a period of time, receiving awards for his expertise.
Always one for adventure, he seldom let an opportunity pass him by. On one of his overseas tours he was able to purchase a Honda 90 to bring home for his boys. Where do you store a Honda 90 for a trip across the ocean? Strap it to the bulkhead, of course. When Bill was stationed on San Clemente Island, he felt obliged to expose the neighborhood children to the wildlife that inhabited the island. On one of his trips home he brought some wild goats with him to show all the kids around the neighborhood.
When Bill retired in May, 1975, he had achieved the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer. Though he was in active service for 20 years, he was in the Navy and the Navy was in him his entire adult life until he breathed his last breath. He remarked many times over the years that joining the Navy was the best thing he ever did. After retiring from the military, Bill pursued his entrepreneurial side and owned and operated Foothills Rooter Service for 15 years in the El Cajon area. Following this he worked for the LeMesa Spring Valley School District in the maintenance department. He fully retired in 1997.
Bill and Kay had lots of fun and many adventures traveling across the country in their motor homes. They visited lots of friends and family, enjoyed many different sites and experiences, and met new friends in their travels. The military connection was always there and they met lots of people who were linked together in that “family”.
Bill was larger than life and relished every day. Some of the things he enjoyed most were camping on the beach in Mexico and in the Laguna Mountains, fishing of any kind, grunion hunting, riding dirt bikes and three wheelers, carpentry and woodworking, Dutch oven cooking and gardening, to name just a few. He was interested in learning and if he made up his mind to do something, he would study and learn about how to do it and then proceed to get it done. He was the type of man that you wanted to be around; someone that you emulated and wanted to be like. He was a leader by example; he was responsible; he provided for his family; he expected others to carry their own weight. He was a good friend and a good neighbor. Bill was a good man.
He is survived by Kathryn (Kay), his loving and supportive wife of 63 years; four children: Teri Feasel (Carlin, NV), Rick (Rose) Cantrell (Wichita Falls, TX), Scott Cantrell (Spring Creek, NV), Mark (Sue) Cantrell (Boulder City, NV); seven grandchildren; ten great-grandchildren; and his sister, Barbara Scherer (Bandon, OR).
During this time of Coronavirus Pandemic it is not possible to have a service. A memorial service will be held at a future date, hopefully in the fall.