William James Elander (Bill), 86, passed peacefully on August 28, 2020, in the presence of his loving wife Lynn and his entire immediate family there to honor him. He was born to William and Almira Elander on July 02, 1934. Bill spent much of his youth being a kid running with his buddies on the beaches at Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, and in the woods of Charlotte, North Carolina. Bill’s amazing life story was just beginning.
William Elander graduated from High School in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1952, and later received a bachelor’s degree from “The Citadel” in 1957. Bill’s dream was to become a jet fighter pilot and in 1958 he received his commission as an officer in the United States Air Force and later in 1959 earning his wings becoming a “fighter pilot”.
Bill married the love of his life on April 1, 1962, only ten days from the day they met. A beautiful Delta Stewardess named Lynn Greer. They started their life together as an Air Force family moving frequently as duty required. Together they raised 3 children Scott, Tanya, and Benjamin. He is also survived by 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Lynn and Bill remained married and in love for 58 years.
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Elander served his country for 20 years as a hero and one of our country’s greatest Fighter Pilots flying F-100’s, F105’s, and F-4 Phantom II’s in the United States Air Force. He was deployed to Thailand and Okinawa where he heroically flew over 200 missions in North Vietnam. From 1969 to 1972 he was assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada to fly for the United States Air Force Thunderbirds…an honor reserved only for the best of the best.
After completing his amazing tour with the Thunderbirds, duty called him back to the war in North Vietnam. On July 5, 1972, his aircraft was struck by an air-to-air missile forcing him to eject and was later captured by the North Vietnamese and taken to the notorious prison camp known as the “Hanoi Hilton”. Bill was an uncooperative POW with a bad attitude but survived the torture, starvation, and mistreatment of the North Vietnamese. He was released on March 29, 1973, and soon rejoined his family with a tearful reunion. After 20 years of honorable military service, Bill retired from the Air Force in 1978 and moved on to the next chapter in his life.
Bill and Lynn decided to move their family to Reno, Nevada, he accepted an offer with the brand-new MGM Grand Reno. He learned the hotel and convention business from the ground up and it only took a few short years to reach the top executive level in the conventions department at the massive resort hotel. He was a natural. One day his mentor and former Thunderbird Team leader called him about a classified add he had read, and convinced Bill to apply for the position of President and CEO of the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau in Alaska. Out of hundreds of applicants Bill was chosen. For over 13 years he led his team making Anchorage and all of Alaska one of the top convention and visitors destinations in the country. In 2000 Bill decided to retire but not before having the best party in all of Alaska in his honor thrown by his adoring staff and community. They presented him with the key to the city of Anchorage.
Bill and Lynn traveled everywhere imaginable in their RV visiting family and friends eventually deciding to leave Anchorage and move back to the Reno-Sparks area in 2002 where they were closer to their kids, grandkids, and eventually great-grandkids, as well as many friends…and golf courses! Bill and his amazing wife Lynn resided together happily in Sparks, Nevada. Bill had a wonderful life. He passed away while his whole family was touching him…and he had touched all of us in amazing ways. We are all better people for having Bill Elander (aka; Dad, Gampa) in our lives. We all love and miss you so much! You will always live in our hearts and will never be forgotten.
There was a memorial celebration of Bill’s life at Walton’s Chapel by invitation on September 19th. In lieu of sending flowers, Bill would appreciate donations to Veterans Guest House in his name. Donations can be mailed to Veterans Guest House, 880 Locust St., Reno, NV 89502 or online at www.veteransguesthouse.org. Bill’s final resting place will be Arlington National Cemetery.