On this 12th day of December, which would have been his 91st birthday, we honor and deeply miss William Albert McCollum who passed away surrounded by family on December 3, 2022, after a brief illness.
William (“Bill”) was born in Kansas City, Missouri on December 12, 1931, to loving parents Nova Leo McCollum and Mae Donice McCollum. Bill spent his early years in small towns outside of Kansas City where his Dad ran a gas station during the war. Later Bill and his younger sister Janet moved with the family back to Kansas City where his father became a mechanic for TWA (Trans World Airlines). Many hours spent with his Dad watching planes flying in and out of the airport gave Bill a lifelong passion for aviation and travel.
An excellent student, Bill once thought of becoming a math teacher, but his dream of becoming a pilot drew him to enlist in the Air Force. Bill made friends easily. He was very personable, respectful, and hard-working and he excelled in the military. The Air Force afforded him the opportunity to go to college in Omaha, Fighter Weapons School, and later Air War College. He became a highly-decorated fighter pilot, primarily flying F100s, and served tours in Europe protecting the Eastern Front and later did two tours in Vietnam. He was a respected officer, a “Mustang” who had worked his way up from the enlisted ranks. Bill eventually rose to the rank of Colonel and was transferred to the Pentagon in the early 1970s. Bill retired from the Air Force in 1975 to return to Las Vegas to focus on his family.
Bill had a tremendous love for his family and was a loyal and loving friend to many. He had two children from his first marriage, and gained three additional children with his second marriage and then three grandchildren that he adored. Bill didn’t stop there, he loved, mentored, and guided so many more children over the course of his life through programs like Big Brothers or more often from just virtually adopting people into his life. It is a testament to his huge heart that many of these additional children were by his bedside at the end.
In addition to flying, Bill also loved to ski and loved to race cars (he definitely loved going fast!) He taught all of his family to ski and anyone else he could convince to join him. He also insisted that all the children learn to drive a stick shift and insisted that everyone learn how to accelerate through a turn. He loved the outdoors and loved taking long hikes with his dogs. Bill also loved to golf, though that was one thing he did not excel at despite decades of trying. He always made sure to wear a nice hat and made it fun! Bill continued all of these passions throughout his life. He loved that you could ski for free when he got over 75 and was once referred to as the “flying dinosaur” by a German newspaper that wrote about him being the oldest pilot still flying fighter planes which he flew into his 70s.
Bill’s extended family and friends will miss his laugh, his mischievous boyish wit, his crazy attempts at DIY projects, and his hugs that always made you feel safe and loved.
Bill was predeceased by his parents, his sister Janet Lawrence, his granddaughter Alicia Lee and sons-in-law Jon Lee and Kurt Bergen. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Sandy McCollum, children Lauren McCollum, Stacy McCollum Spahle (Bob Spahle), Cathie Lee, Dewitt Hoopes, and Laura Hoopes Bergen, and grandchildren Jasmine Lee and Shaelin Spahle, as well as the entire Bayuk family – Amanda, Cody, Dylan, Haley, Katlyn, Mackenzie, Susan, Tanner, and William Peyton.
A celebration of life will be held for William A. McCollum at a later date.
Please share your stories, memories, photos, and videos about Bill, on the Memoriam page. (at the link below)
If you would like to be notified about memorial service plans, please sign the guestbook (at the link below) on the site or contact the family.