Waynesville, Dr. William Thomas "Bill" Bird, age 96, passed away on Tuesday, August 9, 2022 at Haywood Lodge and Retirement Center.
A native of Swain County, Bill was born on January 4, 1926, in Smokemont, NC where Champion Fibre Company ran a sawmill operation prior to its sale to the Federal Government for inclusion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was preceded in death by his parents, Henry Grady and Josephine Patton Bird and his sister, Margaret Rentz.
Bill is a direct descendant and namesake of William Holland Thomas, friend and Chief of the Cherokee, and Robert Love, founder of Waynesville, NC.
Bill attended public school in Sylva, NC. After graduation from high school, he went to work at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and joined the Navy in March 1944 just after his 18th birthday. He served on the USS Pillsbury and the USS Seminole where he participated in the World War II Battle of Okinawa.
After his discharge from the Navy in 1946 he attended Western Carolina College where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Science, and George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) where he received a Master of Science degree in Math and Science. He later received a Doctorate of Education degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
After his graduation from Peabody, Bill served as the Principal of Fines Creek School in Haywood County and then went on to serve as the Superintendent of Schools at Morven City Schools, Tryon City Schools, Davie County Schools, Thomasville City Schools, Richmond County Schools, and his final position at Haywood County Schools from 1969 through 1977.
After his retirement in 1977 at the age of 51, Bill started his second "career" collecting and restoring antique gasoline engines (Hit and Miss engines) from the early 1900’s. He belonged to several antique engine clubs and traveled throughout the East Coast and upper Midwest to various engine shows each year, often with his wife Jane. At these shows, he would exhibit his best and most unique engines. He and Jane met many wonderful friends over the years with the same interest in engines. Bill and his friends would sometimes trade the same engines back and forth and help each other get them in running order.
During his retirement years Bill also served his community. He was Chairman of the Haywood County Election Board and also served as Chairman of the initial North Carolina Technology Board (NCTB). During his tenure as NCTB Chairman a proposal was developed to build regional high technology training centers across North Carolina. The initial regional High Tech Center was established at Haywood Community College.
These years also provided Bill with many wonderful occasions to spend time with his family, including camping trips with his grandchildren, and family get togethers. He loved to tease and get hugs from his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and kept up with how each of them was doing. At one such family dinner someone told Bill, "You know, you started all this" and his response was "Yes, and I am proud of every one of them."
Bill was a member of Waynesville First United Methodist Church and enjoyed the fellowship of the Faith Sunday School Class.
Bill is survived by his wife of 46 years, Jane Bird, of Waynesville; daughter, Meg Reeves, and her husband, Richard, of Waynesville; two sons, Bill Bird and his wife, Cynthia, of Waynesville and Terry Bird of Waynesville; stepdaughters, Lee Brown, and her husband Mal, of Palm Coast, Florida and Frances Jaynes, and her husband, David, of Waynesville; seven grandchildren, Michael Bird (Danielle Smith), David Bird (Lana), Cyndy Rape (Jason), Parker Reeves (Rebekah), Lindsey Meyer (Mike), Colson Jaynes (Emily), and Ivy Jaynes; and ten great-grandchildren, Jacob, Brayden, Kielynn, Ava, Waylon, Reeves, Mason, Blakely, Mathis, and Willow.
Memorial services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 27, 2022 at First United Methodist Church of Waynesville with Reverend Becky Brown officiating. The family will receive friends following the service in the church narthex. A private inurnment will take place at Locust Field Cemetery in Canton. Military rites will be provided by the United States Navy.
The family wishes to extend heartfelt gratitude to the management and staff at Haywood Lodge and Retirement Center. For the past 4 years they have treated our father with love and compassion as if he were a member of their own family. For this we are extremely appreciative.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Firewood Ministry in care of Long’s Chapel UMC, ATTN : Finance, 133 Old Clyde Road, Waynesville, NC 28785. In the memo line of a check donation, please designate “Firewood Ministry.”
The care of Dr. Bird has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Waynesville.