MARIETTA -- William E. "Bill" Dykes, Sr., a true Southern gentleman who deeply loved the Marietta community, died Thursday, January 26, 2012. He was 90.
His was a fascinating life with the adventure beginning while he was still in high school. With three of his best friends, Bill enlisted in the National Guard in 1939 at the age of 17, trying to earn a little spending money. "We got about $.70 per drill," he would recall.
At Savannah High School he was elected senior class president, only to have his senior year cut short just two weeks after school began when his Guard unit and 2,000 other teenagers were called up on September 16, 1940 as World War II was underway.
What was thought to be a one-year call up ended more than five years later when the war was finally over. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of his life.
Bill shipped out with the First Army to Belgium and moved through the Ruhr Pocket, capturing the Ludendorff Bridge, later known as the "Miracle of Remagen". His unit joined General George Patton's Third Army past the Rhine River, where they moved on to liberate the famed Nuremberg POW camp. At the time Bill was a 23-year-old captain, in charge of a small crew of younger soldiers at the nerve center of the battalion who controlled and planned the firing of eight-inch howitzers. "It was scary but thrilling," he would later say.
In the spring of 1945 Bill was head of the advance team for General Patton as they moved to liberate the POW camp known as "Hell Camp" in Mooseberg, Germany where a young Marietta B-17 pilot, Harry Livingston, was held as a prisoner of war. He was part of the wild celebration that ensued when General Patton personally drove the first tank through the camp gate.
Returning to America ten months short of a high school diploma, Bill was able to enter Georgia Tech on the GI bill and obtain his engineering degree.
At Georgia Tech Bill married the love of his life, a Savannah girl named Rebecca "Becky" Webster. Theirs was a true love that spanned 63 years, marked with the births of their sons, Bill, Jr. and Mike, and later their five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Bill and Becky came to Marietta in 1950 where he joined the McNeel Marble Company as an engineer. The two immediately became fixtures in the community, making lasting friendships at the Marietta Country Club and the First United Methodist Church.
Bill never missed a Marietta High football game where Bill, Jr. played on the 1967 state championship team and Mike earned a college football scholarship.
He was a loyal member of the Marietta Rotary Club, often documenting the club yearbook, maintaining perfect attendance and receiving the club's very first Rotarian of the Year Award.
In 1973 he purchased Peerless Manufacturing Company in Shellman, GA and shortly thereafter he and Becky moved to Albany. They returned to Marietta in 2005 to renew lifelong friendships and make countless new others in the Commons neighborhood.
Last fall he celebrated his 90th birthday in grand style, joined by cherished friends on a party bus to the Varsity in Atlanta.
In keeping with the Dykes family tradition, he was overjoyed to have his name changed from "Pop" to "Big Pop" with the births of his four great grandsons, Will and Mac Goolsby and Webb and Troy Scarbrough, relinquishing the family title "Pop" to son Bill, Jr.
He was predeceased by his wife, Rebecca W. Dykes. He is survived by his son, William E. "Bill" Dykes, Jr. and wife, Meredith; son, Michael L. Dykes of Albany; granddaughter, Emily Dykes Goolsby and husband, Jon; granddaughter, Molly Dykes Scarbrough and husband, Brandon; grandson, Michael McCormack "Mackey" Dykes and wife, Katie; grandsons, William E. Dykes, III and Mark Webster Dykes; and sister, Mildred Spivey. His wonderful caregiver, Nancy Wrosch, became an integral part of the family in his final years.
Graveside services will be private. A memorial service will be held Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 2:00 p.m., at Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home with grandsons Jon Goolsby and Brandon Scarbrough officiating, followed by an opportunity to speak to the family.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Youth Missions in care of Stonebridge Church, 176 Roswell St. Se, Marietta, GA 30060.
Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home
Marietta 770/ 428-1511