William Robert Vanator, known to most as “Bill,” passed away on Wednesday, May 2nd in Fort Wayne’s Lutheran Hospital. He was 85 years old at his death.
A longtime resident of Berne (Adams County) Indiana, Bill was born on May 22, 1932 in Kosciusko County and attended Leesburg School where he graduated in 1950. On January 3, 1958, Bill and Sandra Lee Stevens were united in marriage. Although they had met many years earlier and knew each other for some time, it wasn’t until after Bill’s return from the Air Force that they began dating.
As an Air Force steward, Bill served in Thule, Greenland and grew to love airplanes of all types. He also enjoyed reading about military history and loved model trains. His large HO gauge train set took up most of their home’s basement, the family often joked that it would soon require a tunnel to expand. He was a skilled marksman and enjoyed Westerns like Gunsmoke and anything with John Wayne. A Ping Pong champion, IU basketball fan (especially of the Bobby Knight era) and expert tinkerer, Bill had worked for several places as a manufacturing engineer. Most notably, he worked for Dalton Foundry, Peabody Seating Company, Hubbard Spool and MacIntosh Corporation.
Having grown up around his parent’s apple orchard, making cider and harvesting apples became a family tradition for Bill, Sandy, and their children, too. From this Bill learned a lot about plants and gardening and developed a love for caring for his own plants and yard. Bill was “just the right amount of ornery” and loved to play and roughhouse with his children and grandchildren, who will always remember him as quiet and kind hearted, hard-working, loyal, tenacious, and witty.
Those who survive with memories to treasure include his wife of more than 60 years, Sandra Vanator of Berne and four children: Leslie (husband, Greg) Gregory of Fort Wayne, Valerie Cullen of New Castle, CO, Jonathan (wife, Amy) Vanator of Pendleton and Jennifer (husband, Marco Pagliacci) Vanator of Washburn, WI. He is also survived by six grandchildren and his sister, Iva Johnston of Pewaukee, WI.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Mable (Lake) Vanator; and by two sisters, Betty Tampkin and Mary Evelyn Bearinger.
Friends and family will gather for visitation on Sunday, May 6th at Titus Funeral Home, 2000 East Sheridan Street, Warsaw from Noon to 2 p.m. A funeral service which celebrates Bill’s life will begin at 2 p.m. with Pastor Jim Schwartz, First Mennonite Church of Berne officiating. Burial will follow in Leesburg Cemetery with military honors rendered by members of the US Air Force, American Legion Post 49 and VFW Post 1126.