Sunday, February 16, 2003

Obituary: Francis McWilliams

Helped build ships used in World War II

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mr. McWilliams

Francis Ed McWilliams was a patriot, an engineer and a devoted family man. He and his four brothers all served in World War II, four in the U.S. Navy and one in the U.S. Army.

"He and his brothers were good representatives of their generation," said his son, Dr. Frank E. McWilliams II of East Walnut Hills. "They were men of high integrity."

Francis McWilliams died Wednesday of rheumatoid arthritis at St. Margaret Hall in Evanston. The North Avondale resident was 86.

He was born in 1916 in San Benito, Texas, to Bill and Emma McWilliams and studied engineering at Texas Tech College (now University) in Lubbock, where he also played football. He married fellow student Myrtle Bumpass in 1936.

Mr. McWilliams joined the U.S. Navy in 1935 and served as a metalsmith and boilermaker in Portsmouth, Va., both on active duty and then in the reserves.

His son said his father's skills were so rare that the Navy would not allow him to return to active duty during World War II, so he stayed in Virginia and helped build the ships of the Atlantic Fleet that eventually conquered the German and Italian forces in the Atlantic.

After the war, he returned to Lubbock and continued to serve in the Naval Reserve. He retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer in 1963.

He also worked as an engineer and supervisor in the repair and evaluation of high-intensity maintenance at Reese Air Force Base.

He designed a number of tools and instruments to test the integrity of the Air Force training jets and developed the use of high frequency ultrasound to detect stress flaws in the jet planes.

Mr. McWilliams was recognized for saving money with his improvements and minimizing the downtime of the planes. He retired in 1982 after 43 years of service.

His first love was his family. He was his son's Scoutmaster and rescued several Scouts from a flash flood in Texas. He and his wife later helped raise the children of his daughter, Carol Booker of Belen, N.M., when she became ill.

He and his wife moved to Cincinnati after retirement to be close to their grandchildren. They lived in The Belvedere Condominiums in North Avondale, where Mr. McWilliams served on the board of directors and spent countless hours maintaining and improving the physical plant and engineering systems of the historic property.

In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include a brother, Raymond of Lubbock, Texas; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 4-6 p.m. Sunday at Gilligan Funeral Home, 2926 Woodburn Avenue and 10-11 a.m. Monday at the Church of Christ in Clifton. The funeral service is at 11 a.m. He will be interred in Lubbock.

Memorials: American Cancer Society, 11117 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242-1817.

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