Bill J. Rokkan

08/11/1922 — 02/14/1999

From Richland, WA | Born in Pasco, WA

Bill J. Rokkan

An extraordinary spirit has departed from our company for only a brief while. Bill James “Rocky” Rokkan ascended peacefully from his ever-so tired body to grander realms on Sunday, February 14,1999. The Thursday before. with the strength of his trademark stubbornness and determination and ignoring all advice. he climbed onto the roof of his home In Richland to repair shingles loosened by recent high winds. After completing his task and then descending a ladder. he fell and suffered a head injury that led to his passing. By all appearances, it was undeniably his time. and it won’t be a surprise were we later to learn he had masterfully directed this event to his heart’s final beat.

Bill was born August 11, 1922, in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Pasco. Washington, and raised by his parents In Kennewick. Washington. His mother, Anna Telitha Copeland Rokkan. carried him for over eleven months, a condition necessitating the first caesarian-section delivery in the Columbia Basin region. Bill’s father was George Hamilton Rokkan. grandson of Norwegian immigrants who settled and farmed in Iowa.

When only five years old, Bill fell in love with airplanes and the notion of flying. Before his eighteenth birthday he had won his pilot license. having paid for lessons with money he earned working a variety of Jobs, no matter how meager the wage. He also was an accomplished drummer, playing in local dance bands. even into his fifties. Besides flying for the sheer passion of it, Bill also crop-dusted area farms and worked at Hart Flying Service, in Pasco taking eager customers on plane rides. With the start of World War II, ft was a natural progression for him to become a Naval Aviator. serving our country from 1942 unto 1946. He flew extensively In both Pacific and European theaters of war and also had the distinction of landing the first Allied military transport plane in Paris following its liberation.

After WWII ended, Bill’s expert piloting skills gained him an opportunity to work for the Atomic Energy Commission, later to become the Department of Energy. Starting in 1948 when the Columbia River flooded much of this area, he for many years flew patrols over the Hanford Site as well as ferrying to and from points in the Pacific Northwest dignitaries who visited the Site. His flying career eventually gave way to a more-than full-time one in Safeguards and Security. from which he retired as Assistant Director in 1981. Later, he would work for UNC Nuclear Industries and Westinghouse Hanford before really retiring in 1991.

Bill married his high school sweetheart. Bien E. Tabor. of Pasco. She was the love of his life. and they devotedly sowed 54 years of their lives together after having wed on October 20, 1944. in Washington. D.C. They were blessed with three children. Jon Elaine. their tiny firstborn gift in 1945 tragically passed after only six days of precious life. George Sigfried, their older son, born in 1948, become an architect and highly respected project engineer with DOE before his sudden passing in 1991. Their younger son. Donald Jomes, lives in Richland and works as an engineer at Hanford. He is the fortunate father of Bill and Ellen’s two beloved granddaughters, Keno and Lainey Rokkan. Ellen is now retired after years of toiling in volunteer work on the Washington State Hospital Board and in numerous retail positions with Jewelers and pharmacies. Bill’s younger brother. Don. lives in Kennewick with his wife. Mary Lou. They have two children. Kris Ann Rokkan Jacobs and Daniel. and their respective spouses, Steve and Debbie.

All who knew Bill seemed to have been unforgettably and profoundly affected by his presence. Not only was he virtually revered for his professional expertise, but he was extremely intelligent. with o stunning. perhaps even photographic. memory for detail and on ever alert bent toward issuing sharply witty comments. Yet for those who knew him well, he became far more. They found in Bill rare and deep qualities of resilience, loyalty, fairness, and compassion. His nickname is so wonderfully appropriate in defining his overall character, for he truly was a rock on whom you could entrust your life, as many had safely done when in distress. Never again will one with such marvelous uniqueness pass this way.

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