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Willie Sproule obit and newsletter article

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  • Willie Sproule obit and newsletter article

    William Davis Sproule [IMG]file:///C:/Users/Family/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image002.jpg[/IMG]
    Funeral services for Master Gunnery Sgt. (Retired) William Davis Sproule, 90, of Choudrant, LA, were held at 3:00 PM on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at Alabama Presbyterian Church in Sibley, LA.
    William was born on February 21, 1929, and passed away on April 29, 2019 at his home in Choudrant, LA. William served his country for over 30 years as a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the US Marine Corp.

    William was a member of the Alabama Presbyterian Church. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Esta May Sproule, son William D. Sproule, II, and granddaughter Amber Young.
    Left to cherish William’s memory are his sons: James Sproule and wife Diana of Eros, LA and Carl Sproule and wife Melinda of Choudrant, LA; grandchildren: Jeremy Sproule and wife Melissa, George Joseph Sproule, Johnathan Young, David Young, Carly Sproule, and Corporal Wesley Sproule USMC and wife Michelle; and 6 great grandchildren.

    Tribute to Master Gunnery Sergeant William D. Sproule
    [composed by Rusty Sachs, Burt Palmer, and Tom Hewes, June 2012]
    Those of us who had the honor of serving with Master Gunnery Sergeant Willie Sproule in Vietnam knew it all along; it was only Willie who didn’t know that he would become a legend. In this case a legend compounded of exceptional leadership, iron clad integrity, and the technical expertise to turn out a twenty-plane launch day after day.
    Not one of us who worked with him in the best part of four decades has ever forgotten him: an inspirational leader and model of what a Marine Staff NCO should be. Willie’s story begins in 1946 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. In the 1950’s, when Willie was a young PFC assigned to a Marine attack squadron in Korea, he engineered a transfer to helicopters, which he saw as a more challenging way to serve the Corps. After Korea, Willie served in various helo squadrons, including participating in the first H Bomb test at Bikini Atoll in 1951.
    At NAS Memphis he soon became lead helicopter instructor at the A Schools, where he and his close friend Herman Boyd married sisters from Choudrant, Louisiana. Willie married Esther, who many of you may remember meeting at our reunion in Las Vegas in 1996. Esther was known throughout Marine aviation as maker of the best tacos on the planet, and Willie knew that Marines enjoy a cold beer with their tacos. So he and buddy Carl Gricks began making a special home brew in the basement. Hoping to boost the potency of the concoction, Willie added a bit more rice to the batch for a certain squadron party. Was it potent? On the way to the affair Willie hit a bump in the road and two jugs collided; the jolt transferred just the right amount of energy to initiate a minor explosion. Try to imagine the sight of Staff Sergeant Sproule, soaked with beer and blood, emerging from his truck to greet his Marines, dignity undiminished!

    Willie used to growl “I never shit-canned anyone,” and he hadn’t. He could take the most troubled, undisciplined man and turn him into the sort of Marine anyone would be proud to serve with. And some of the most hopeless cases ended up as solid career Marines, often simply because they wanted to be like Willie. Of course, there were occasions when the example he set needed to be reinforced by a trip out behind the hangar, but they were rare.
    Most of us knew – or at least had heard the rumor, which we couldn’t conceive being untrue – that Willie had earned his Black Belt in Judo. But few of us ever saw him raise a hand to another man; he didn’t need to. A couple of years ago, however, a dispute arose with a fellow thirty years younger who bought an adjacent property and who (1) thought Willie’s property line infringed on the newcomer’s field and (2) thought he was tough. Willie calmly hired a surveyor to check the lines, and showed them to the neighbor as well as the county land office. That should have ended the matter, but no, the neighbor soon showed up on the Sproule porch, hollering about how Willie was a cheating old man. The painful enormity of his error came when he took a swing at Willie, who deftly blocked it, then flipped the clown over the railing into the dirt. End of argument.
    Ugly Burt Palmer, a former Staff NCO and retired Lieutenant, who served with Willie three times – once each in New River, Memphis, and Vietnam – recalled an incident at a Happy Hour in Memphis. It seems there was a grunt Sergeant Major who liked to badmouth air wing Marines. There was no Staff NCO club at Memphis back then, so the Navy Chiefs’ Club did double duty. One Friday the Sergeant Major showed up, sucked up a quart or so of suds, and walked up to the stage. “Here’s something you Air Wing pussies will never do!” he exclaimed, and dropped to the deck to rip off thirty pushups to great applause. Wordlessly, Willie drained his beer, walked to the stage, and proceeded to knock off sixty by-the-book pushups. The Sergeant Major was seldom heard from for the remainder of his tour at Memphis.
    Burt also pointed out that Willie was the only Staff NCO he’d ever known to turn down a promotion. When informed that he’d been recommended for meritorious advancement to gunny – Technical Sergeant, in the “Old Corps” – Willie simply told his colonel, “No, sir. I’m not really ready for that yet.” When the T/Sgt list came out later that year, Willie was high on the list.
    We Ugly Angels think of Willie as the ideal Marine. Burt expressed best what we all feel when he said, “Willie was without doubt the most honorable man I ever met, as well as the best Marine.” To cite but one example of his integrity, many years after he had enlisted in 1946, he turned himself in to his CO for having lied about his age – he was only fifteen. Since COs respect integrity too, Willie’s record was swiftly corrected without prejudice.

    As we saw in Vietnam, Willie was always on the job, never on the clock. He knew that seeing him with his hands dirty after midnight made the lance corporals that much more willing to do the same. His commitment to the maintenance department was beyond measure.
    Nor did it lapse with retirement. In 1998 when we undertook the restoration of YL-42 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Willie acted as Maintenance Chief for the project. Nor has he slacked off since. In the last few years, he has bugled TAPS at the funerals of eighteen Marines.
    Willie is into his eighties now, and still plays golf, carrying his bag the full 18 holes. I’m told that at age 78 he whacked a drive so long and so straight that it came to rest more than 400 yards down the fairway.

    The esteem we Ugly Angels hold for Willie is not limited to the squadron. In 1972 Willie’s reputation as a superb maintainer had become so well known that the Marine Corps Aviation Association created a prestigious award in his honor. It’s called The William D. Sproule Award and is presented annually to an enlisted Marine serving in a maintenance billet for the most outstanding contribution to Marine aviation.

    For my part, I have always believed that more so than any of her distinguished commanding officers, brave pilots and aircrewmen, and other hard charging squadron members, that Master Gunnery Sergeant Willie Sproule represents the true spirit of what it means to be an Ugly Angel. Semper Fidelis, Willie.
    Radio Tweet

  • #2
    Willie’s passing is sad news. I served with him at Kaneohe, and thought he was the best Maintenance Chief in the Marine Corps. Semper Fi, Willie.


    • #3
      RIP Top Willie!
      Hand Salute!
      Semper Fidelis

      Phu Bai tower:
      YW-11 for Phu Bai DASC-
      Remember, These are "A" models!
      YW-11 BuNo-151939
      '65 Model CH-46A