We are here today to mourn and celebrate the life of William (Bill) Lee Browning, Senior Master Sargent USAF, born September 27, 1937. Bill was a good man and had a life well lived. He was known by many names: Bill, Sweetheart, Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Deer Slayer and even Grumpy. Bill liked to wear many hats, physically and personally. Growing up on a farm in Mound City, it was a straw hat or his marching band hat while playing trombone for the Bellingham High School Marching Band. He was extremely proud of his Air Force uniform hats and wore his USAF cap until his death at 82 on March 10, 2020.
Bill’s Journey through life included many more hats. He was a natural mentor and loved teaching by example. The hat he wore as a Boy Scout Troop leader or the Cowboy hat he wore while crawling on the floor and playing with his kids and grandchildren, fit naturally. Bill loved the outdoors and enjoyed wearing his orange hunting cap while deer hunting with his son, Chuck, grandson, Stuart, son-in-law, Jay and friends. He had multiple fishing and camping hats for his ventures with family and friends to Greers Ferry Lake, the Red River and Bulls Shoals Lake. Most would not believe Bill couldn’t swim, but he would take off his lake hat and put on a life jacket. He would slip on a pair of waterskies and ski in the roughest water. Throughout history there have been only three men that have walked on water, Jesus, Peter and Bill. You’ll have to ask one of his kids to explain.
His hats also included volunteering for various activities while his children were in school, such as helping with Vi’s Brownie and Girl Scout Troops and selling more hotdogs, hot chocolate and candy bars, while working the concession stand for the Sylvan Hills Band Booster Club.
Bill loved God, his family, friends and country. He enjoyed time with his wife, Vi, and children, Vickie, Nancy and Chuck. He always put his family’s needs first and made sure their needs were met. He even worked part time at night after working all day at the air force base to make sure his family ate well. Bill led by example, defining right from wrong.
Bill didn’t always wear a hat physically, as he had the Lord with him, working as a Protestant Youth Minister, Church Usher or Methodist Men’s Group. However, he did as a member of the Gideons or establishing the Runyan Acres Volunteer Fire Department.
Bill was a quiet man and had a wonderful sense of humor. He was interesting when he did speak up and could tell great campfire stories. He was a gentle loving husband and father. He would see a need and take care of it. He never helped anyone with the expectation of getting something in return. Bill was a good and loyal friend and never held a grudge.
Bill liked a variety of music, except opera (never could understand what they were singing.) He enjoyed dancing with his sweetheart whenever he had the chance. That might have been the reason he chose to square dance, which gave him plenty of opportunities to dance with her. Bill and Vi joined a square dance club and encouraged their daughter, Vickie, to join them, which is where she met the love of her life, Van. Bill had the opportunity to dress up in his cowboy boots, western wear and cowboy hats and travel with Vi to many square dance conventions around the United States.
Bill loved exploring, participating in conventions and taking cruises. Often, exploring new lands and buffet tables with the Farnhams, the Bishops, the Flynns and camping with the Howards. Travels brought opportunities to try new foods, and there were not too many foods Bill didn’t like. However, hands down his favorites were lobster, fish, crawfish and frog legs. He also never turned down the opportunity to tease Vickie and Nancy about how good oysters were.
His other passion was serving others, either through his woodworking shop, sharpening business or helping customers solve problems at National Travelers RV. Bill wanted to please others until his last moments in life. He apologized to the VA nurses and doctors for having to feed him, tend to his physical needs and clean him up and always had a smile and great sense of humor to share with them.
Over the last several years, Bill spent a lot of time at the VA Hospital in Little Rock and Fort Roots. He believed God put special angels there to nurse him back to health. The biggest angel in his life was the love of his life of more than 64 years, Vi. The Lord blessed her with incredible strength, patience and love to help him through many difficult times. If not for her care, we would not have been blessed with the final months of his journey. He lived with prayers and praised God for all things.
Today we gather to celebrate and say goodbye to this wonderful man we know as husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother and friend. We will keep the joyous memories of his relationship with each of us close to our hearts and know he has truly gone to Glory in the loving arms of God.
Funeral service will be held at 10:30 AM, Monday, March 16, 2020 at Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church with burial following at 12:00 PM at Arkansas State Veteran's Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations made me made to the Sylvan Hills United Methodist Church Memorial Fund.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William "Bill" Lee Browning, please visit our floral store.