William R. Bell: Feb. 2, 2015

Published 10:20 am Thursday, February 26, 2015

ELLAVILLE, Ga. — Lt. Commander William “Bill” Ralph Bell, USCG (ret.), 86, formally of Americus, Ga., and Panama City, Fla., passed away on Feb. 2, 2015, in Falls Church, Va. Born Dec. 7, 1928, in Ellaville, Ga., to Horace and Leacy Grantham Bell, Bill was the fourth child of a family of 15 children.

Bill joined the USCG in 1946 and served tours in New York City, Hawaii, Florida and Japan before attending Officer Candidate School at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. In his early military years in New York, Bill served as a scribe/transcriber for the Nuremberg Trials. After he became an officer, Bill had tours in Texas and Washington, D.C., before becoming commanding officer of the USCG Cutter Cartigan home ported in Panama City, Fla. Bill was instrumental in the establishment of the USCG station located on Panama City Beach, Fla. In his last tour, he was assistant chief, Search and Rescue, 7th Coast Guard District, Miami, Fla., where he was administrator of all the search and rescue operations over water comprising the Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Key West, the entire Caribbean Sea and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. During his time in service, Bill completed his bachelor of arts at George Washington University and master’s in education in mathematics at Auburn University. After retiring from the Coast Guard, Bill had a second career as a math teacher and professor at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla. In his spare time, he enjoyed his family, traveling, farming and raising cattle.

After retiring a second time in 1997, Bill and his late wife, Judy Jane Harbuck Bell, moved to Americus, Ga., and built their dream home on Lake Collins. Bill and Judy became active members of Central Baptist Church where Bill was a member of the Senior Men’s Sunday school class. In addition, Bill was a long-time member of the Americus Civitan Club and was twice voted Civitan of the Year in 2003 and 2006, for his leadership and volunteer work. He was also a member of American Legion Post 191 in Ellaville, Ga.

While Bill had an accomplished career, his first love was his family. Bill’s first wife, Sandra Hawley Bell, died in 2008, and their children Malinda (Larry) Zimmerman of Vienna, Va., Mark (Abbie) Bell of Cary, N.C., and Melanie (Al) Mainwaring of Houston, Texas, survive him along with his stepsons, Todd (Christy) Lightner of Americus, Ga., and Ashley (Leah) Lightner of Warner Robins, Ga.; Bill has 11 grandchildren, Jill Bell Boswell, Ashley Zimmerman, Josh Zimmerman, Chase Lightner, Arlene Bell, Tina Bell, Jonathan Zimmerman, Victor Mainwaring, Kirsten Mainwaring, Broxton Lightner and Jett Lightner who will miss their Granddaddy’s tickles, hugs and games of Scrabble and Rumikub. In addition, Bill had one great-grandchild, Madison Boswell and she, along with Brox and Jett, gave him much joy in his later years. Bill is also survived by his sisters, Laura Jean Bennett, Marilyn Sue Gurley and brother Boyette Bell along with many nieces, nephews and extended family.

Bill “Billy” lived an honorable life and enriched the lives of all that knew him. We will miss him dearly.

A memorial service with full military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 7, 2015, at Central Baptist Church, 190 Upper River Road, Americus, Ga., with interment immediately following at Oak Grove Cemetery in Americus, Ga.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to the National Parkinson Foundation at www.parkinson.org or Hospice Foundation of America at www.hospicefoundation.org/donate

Please visit www.watsongiddensfuneralhome.com to sign the online guest register.

Watson-Giddens Funeral Home, Ellaville, Ga., is in charge of arrangement.