By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLERAIN TWP. - Robert W. Willen made the most of a life that could have ended over Germany during World War II.
A B-24 Liberator pilot, he was flying his 20th mission in 1944 when his plane caught fire after being hit by flak. He made it out of the burning aircraft by squeezing through a tiny cockpit window. He would later say that he didn't know how he made it out with the large parachute pack on his back.
On the ground he was immediately captured by Germans and spent the rest of the war, nearly a year, in a prison camp. He was liberated in May 1945.
He died Saturday at Western Hills Retirement Village in Delhi Township. He was 85.
His philosophy was to live life to the fullest. He strove to fill every day with games, humor and fellowship with friends and family.
Even after he retired in 1983 from Lohre and Associates after 30 years of service he remained active, working as an usher at St. Vivian Church, serving at a soup kitchen in Northern Kentucky, bowling, golfing and playing bridge.
He used to regale his bridge partners with tales of his time in the POW camp, and two years ago was excited to bowl a 200.
Devoted to his family, he cared for his wife, Mary Jane (nee Settelmayer), for years as she struggled with cancer. She died in 1988.
In 1992 he met his "gal," Mildred Ethart, who was his companion on golf outings, family vacations and cruises to Bali.
Mr. Willen was a member of St. Margaret Mary Church in North College Hill, where he served as president of the Holy Name Society.
Survivors include a son, Donald of Fairfield; three daughters, Mary Ann Theurer of Cincinnati, Linda Wimmers of West Chester and Pam Pelzel of Colerain Township; a sister, Margaret Berkemeyer; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation is 5-8 p.m. today at Hodapp Funeral Home, 6041 Hamilton Ave. in College Hill. Mass of Christian Burial is 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Vivian Church, 7600 Winton Road in Finneytown. Burial is at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Montgomery.
Memorials: American Cancer Society, 11117 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati 45242; or the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, 5900 Delhi Road, Mount St. Joseph, OH 45051.
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