William Carlton "Bill" Loftis, 93, of Battle Creek, passed away peacefully on July 7, 2022, at Glenn Arbor Hospice. He was born to William A. and Wilma L. (Tharp) Loftis, November 12, 1928, in Salem, Kentucky, the first of four children. Bill grew up on a farm, and attended school in Salem. As soon as he was old enough, he helped work on the family farm. He also sang bass in a southern gospel quartet, made up of family and friends, who would sing occasionally on a local radio station. Before coming to Michigan in 1950, he worked at the fluorspar mines. He said many times how they didn't have much, but he couldn't have had a better childhood. The stories of his adventures he'd share were pure gold; told with his always present southern drawl, making the listeners sometimes wonder how he ever survived some of the things he and his brothers and friends would do. But, one thing those tales would always do, is bring smiles and laughter to anyone listening. Once in Michigan, he went to work at the U.S. Register Company.
In 1951, Bill was drafted into the U.S. Army. He spent two years, 1951-1953, in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He did two tours in Nevada, at the Nevada Proving Ground (later known as NTS), where, in 1951, he participated in the atom bomb tests, called Operation Buster Jangle. In 1952, he was in communications, and even worked as a switchboard operator.
Upon his return to Michigan, in 1953, he went back to the Register Company, where he noticed a girl who'd been hired while he was away. Her name was Velma Langdon. His friend, Joe Tanner, got her number for Bill. The next day, after a phone call the night before, the two went to a little burger place on their first date. From then on, the two were inseparable. Just two months later, they were engaged. They married on December 27, 1953, at the First Congregational Church, in Athens, MI, with Joe as Bill's best man. Some sixty-nine years later, Bill would tell his daughter, he could've looked all over, forever, but he never would've been able to find a more loving, kind, wonderful woman as Velma Langdon.
In 1966, Bill took his lunch break at the Register Company, and went to an interview at Kellogg's, where he was hired immediately. He worked there, climbing the ladder to the position of line leader in packing. Bill and Velma loved to travel, whether it was close to home, or far away. They did so alone, or with friends and family. They played cards, would take their boat out, take spontaneous trips to Detroit to see the Tigers play, among many other things. In all, they had a wonderful time together. They welcomed their first daughter in 1966, and their youngest daughter in 1970.
Bill also became a pilot of small planes, as a hobby. Which actually led to his second job, as a school bus driver, in 1972. He took it on to pay for his aviation classes. But then, enjoyed it, and the kids, so much, he stayed until his retirement in 1987. Once a pilot, he joined the Aero-Club at the airport in Battle Creek, and enjoyed many hours of flying. He flew for a March of Dimes charity event in the late 70's, and would occasionally take his mother back to Kentucky for visits. But mostly, he'd just fly for fun; just to see the world from the sky, and spend some time with his family. He also enjoyed sports. You could always catch him watching baseball, especially the Tigers or Cubs, any time they were on. He also really liked hockey. His team was, of course, the Red Wings. He was a long time member of the Family Altar Chapel, and sang in the choir for many years. He would, on occasion, sing solos to the congregation. Bill was known for his silly sense of humor. He had a way of making even the most reserved person smile and laugh.
William is survived by his daughters, Carla (Haig) Black and Caralyn Barton; grandchildren, Christopher Barton, Cassandra Barton, Genna Barton, Samuel Barton, Kaitlin (Sean) Keck, Jared (Alyssa) Black; two great-grandchildren, Makayla Rae, and Stanley Charles. Also, his cousins, many nieces and nephews; as well as his two "extra daughters", Ellen Hickman of Lenexa, KS and Karen Thompson of Battle Creek. He was preceded in death by his one and only, Velma, in August, 2021. Also, his parents; brothers Robert and Adrin, sister Thelma, and son-in-law Clifton Barton.
The family will receive friends 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Thursday, July 14th at Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care, Battle Creek where service to celebrate his life will be held 1:00 p.m., Friday, July 15th with his grand-nephew, Noah Miller, presiding. The service will be live-streamed and may be viewed at https://vimeo.com/event/2269663. Interment with military honors will follow at Leonidas Cemetery. Memorials may be directed to Centrica Care Navigators.