William “Bill” Robert Jossendal
William “Bill” Robert Jossendal

William “Bill” Robert Jossendal

By Lori Kerns | Librarian

William “Bill” Jossendal was born to Norwegian immigrants on March 9, 1926. His parents arrived through Ellis Island and headed to Chicago. They began the naturalization process while finding work in farming communities. The couple settled in Illinois on a leased farm where they began to raise a family, four daughters and three sons. The children helped out on the farm as they grew and also attended the local schoolhouse, where the grade school was on the ground floor and the high school on the second. Bill attended and finished the eighth grade before he decided to work on a local farm.

Once WWII began, Bill started thinking about joining the military. At age 17, he went to a local recruiter and learned that he was underage and needed his father’s signature to enlist. His father refused so his older sister, who had a hand in raising Bill, signed for him to join the Navy.

He boarded a train and headed for Camp Waldron in Farragut, Idaho. Bill endured about seven weeks of training before his whole company got orders for Port Hueneme, California. He trained at different bases in California then received his first sea duty orders aboard the destroyer escort, USS Shelton. The ship set out for Pearl Harbor and then made its way to the Marshall Islands to escort destroyers. They didn’t stay long before the ship was sent out for patrol around Morotai Island.

On October 3, 1944 the USS Shelton was torpedoed by the Japanese. The explosion killed 13 men and wounded 22 others. It took several hours of battling to keep the ship afloat. Thankfully, the USS Rowell was close by to weather bad seas and rescue over 210 of the Shelton’s survivors, including Bill.

He eventually made it back to the States as the war was winding down. He went back home to work for about 30 days before receiving orders for Salsalitos, California to work on a tanker. He had several different jobs before winding up working on a tug boat. In 1947, he went back home for a couple of weeks until he received orders for Norfolk, Virginia. This is when he began the rest of his Navy career aboard destroyers, five altogether. On June 30, 1964, Bill retired after serving 21 years in the U.S. Navy.

Back when he had been in the military and stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, Bill met a young lady named Winnie. The two courted for about six months before getting married. After his retirement, the couple decided to settle down in Corpus Christi where he began repairing Huey helicopters. In 1967, Hurricane Beulah hit and destroyed their home. They decided to move to Winnie’s parents’ house in Fort Worth, Texas. Bill found a job with General Dynamics working on the F-111 until he was laid off. He worked a couple different jobs until he decided to use the GI Bill and attend a vo-tech school in Arkansas where he learned to work on small engines.

With his new skills in tow, Bill and Winnie moved back to Corpus Christi where he began his own business repairing lawn mowers. Sadly, Winnie got sick so he decided to retire and take care of her until her passing.

After losing Winnie, Bill began volunteering at the local senior citizen center. He took care of the center’s grounds until he made the decision to move to AFRH. He originally put his name on the waiting list for AFRH-W but decided to tour the newly rebuilt AFRH-G campus. He moved into AFRH-G in 2012 and has since enjoyed each and every day in his home. He says, “This is the place for me.” He has continued his generosity by assisting with the Home’s new residents. He also gives his time working at the airport’s USO Gulf Coast.