William Roy Chritton, Jr.
William Roy Chritton, Jr.
William Roy (Bill) Chritton, Jr., died July 1, 2021, at NHC in West Plains, Missouri, at the age of 88.
He was born on May 13, 1933, the son of William Chritton, Sr. and Margaret Chritton, in Pomona, Missouri. He attended Bridges School, a one-room schoolhouse, through eighth grade. He was the only eighth-grader in the school when he met Wanda Lee Weatherford, who attended neighboring Turner grade school, in a softball game. He was pitching when she hit the winning homerun.
Despite his bruised ego, they began dating when they attended West Plains High School, in the class of 1951. Shortly after high school, Bill was drafted into the United States Army. Bill and Wanda married in 1954 at the Mt. Zion Church, from this union came four children. They spent the next 26 years moving to various Army posts in Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Virginia, as well as a three-year stint in Vicenza, Italy. Bill completed his bachelor’s degree in business at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS.
Bill had two tours in Vietnam, including one tour as a Huey gunship pilot. He received numerous commendations including two awards of the Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, and 39 Air Medals. Many of the Air Medals had the “V-device” awarded for Valor; one was awarded for setting the record for the most combat hours flown in a month.
The family spent the last ten years of his military career in Washington, D.C., where he worked at the Pentagon in the Secretary of the Army’s office, served as Chief in the Office of Congressional Legislative Liaison, and received a master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University through the National War College.
When Bill retired as a Colonel in 1980, he and Wanda returned to their hometown of West Plains, Missouri, where they had a strawberry farm for many years. When they weren’t raising strawberries, they could be seen flying their hot air balloon in the West Plains area, where they gave rides to hundreds of area residents. Bill served on the Ozarks Medical Center board and in many civic organizations over the years.
Then, Bill found a higher purpose. One day, Ken Harper and Gary Frazier visited Bill in the strawberry patch, and asked him to become an investor and chief pilot for a helicopter air ambulance company. In 1985, Bill, Ken, Gary and other investors launched Air Evac, EMS, with one helicopter based in West Plains. Air Evac was the first company to base a helicopter in a rural area, and the first to offer memberships.
Bill eventually became President of the company, and later served as the chairman of the board before selling the company in 2004. By that time, they had changed the name to Air Evac Lifeteam. The company had 41 bases in fourteen states and was the largest independently-owned air ambulance company in the United States. During that 20-year span, Air Evac employed thousands of people and saved countless lives throughout their coverage area.
Bill left behind a large family, including his wife Wanda, their son Michael Chritton and wife Sonia of Boulder, Colorado, two daughters, Vicki Chritton-Myers and husband Ron of West Plains, and Toni Johnson and husband Dennis of West Plains. They also have six grandchildren, Tyson Chritton, Denver, Co., Tawny Chritton-Keene, Knoxville, TN., Nick Myers and William Myers of West Plains, John Chritton, Alexandria, Va., and Mallary Butler, Summerville, S.C., and nine great-grandchildren.
Bill also is survived by four younger sisters, including Wilma Brixey, Springfield, Mo., Shirley Martin, Sedalia, Mo., Erma Chritton, Bolivar, Mo., and Barbara Wood, Linn Creek, Mo., as well as a close-knit extended family of in-laws, nieces and nephews. The “Chritton Clan” is a tightly-knit family and Bill was the well-loved patriarch.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his son, Daniel Roy Chritton, who died at the age of 52.
Those who knew Bill Chritton know he was a force of nature. When he set his mind to accomplishing something, nobody could stop him. He was a man of high integrity, true grit, and boundless determination.
The family is inviting anyone who would like to celebrate Bill’s life to an outdoor funeral service at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at Rubydoo’s Vintage Events, 9240 County Road 9190 in West Plains.
A live-stream of the service will appear on Bill’s Facebook page, William R. Chritton, at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010715827647.
A military burial will take place at Mt. Zion church in Pomona immediately following the funeral service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the cemetery fund at Mount Zion Church in Pomona, Mo., or to the Ozarks Healthcare Foundation through Robertson-Drago or by drop-off at 211 West Main, West Plains.
July 4, 2021 @ 10:48 am
Known Bill over 45 yrs married his niece Gerri Martin! The thing that impressed me with Bill was always his drive to work so hard! He always had something going on in his life to stay Busy ! Don’t know his kids real well but what little I have been around them I liked!wanda and Bill did a great job raising military kids! Witch can’t be easy?
July 4, 2021 @ 4:12 pm
Dad, you were my hero. You taught me the value of a hard day’s work. To be honest. Respect others. You could be tough at times, but you were fair. As we used to say in parting, “Keep your head down an lean forward in the foxhole.”
July 5, 2021 @ 2:31 pm
What can you say about a guy like Bill? While talking and laughing about a few snow flakes at an old high school foot ball game or flying through a thunderstorm he remained the consummate leader and encourager, always taking the time for, and picking up so many along the way. I am reminded of the verse in Mathew, what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. I have an old Cessna 150 that’s got his name etched somewhere on it, I’m sure. Rest in Peace Colonel Chritton. What a ride!
Melinda (Burgess) King
July 5, 2021 @ 9:20 pm
Bill was one of the most outstanding men I’ve known in my life. Quality. Integrity. Down to earth. Always had a smile for me. Wanda and family I know your hearts are hurting but let the image of his Heavenly reunion soothe your souls. He really has wings now.
July 6, 2021 @ 5:13 pm
You were an inspiration to many. Thank you for the vision. Thank you for the opportunities. And thank you for the many lives you touched. And thank you for those strawberries!
Till we meet again… RIP
July 6, 2021 @ 10:52 pm
Oh my Uncle Hero!! Bill was so special in my life!! I loved hanging out him during the early Air Evac year’s and helping with the hot air balloon races in Springfield. People know he was very special in my life!! I will surely miss my HERO!!
July 7, 2021 @ 8:45 am
Mrs. Wanda Chritton, Chritton Children/Families,
We want to extend our deepest sympathy to all of you on the passing of Bill. He always had a smile on his face and a wonderful personality. He will be missed. During this difficult time we will be praying for all of you and may God give each of you peace, comfort, encouragement, and strength. May God bless all of you.
In Christian Love,
July 7, 2021 @ 9:27 am
To Bill’s family ,
You’re in my thoughts and prayers for comfort.
Cherish his memory.
Bill was a wonderful guy.
May he rest in peace.
My Mother Katherine Skaggs Bray also sends you her sympathy. She graduated with Bill & Wanda.
Kathy (Bray) Beaty
Anita (Falwell) Riley
July 13, 2021 @ 1:47 pm
I remember Bill as a handsome young man. His family lived down the road from my grandparents country store. So many good memories of the Chritton clan! We need more men like Bill! May God comfort his family!
October 2, 2021 @ 6:29 pm
I was honored to know Bill. During my years as an orthopedic surgeon in West Plains I had numerous opportunities to work with him. Most importantly, he taught me to fly (and to truly enjoy strawberries). I also learned not to ask questions like “What is a tailspin?” During a flight lesson. He had me put my airplane into a tailspin, then fortunately shared how to get out of it. I haven’t seen him in over thirty years, but it still seems like yesterday. He was one of the most honorable people I have ever known.