Bill Lauck Wood, born November 8, 1926 in Mena, Arkansas passed away peacefully at his home on March 18, 2016. Bill was a devoted and loving father, son, brother, husband, grandfather and friend. He will be greatly missed by, his family, his friends, his co-workers, and fellow Razorback fans. He grew up in Mena, Arkansas and in Wasco, California as the son of Lake J. Wood and Ellen Lauck Wood. He graduated from Wasco High School in 1944 and attended the University of Arkansas where he was a member of Sigma Chi. He enlisted in the Army Air Corp Pilot Cadet program in 1943 and was called to active duty in January, 1945. He served as a technician and pilot with the 35th Fighter Group, and spent his tour of duty at Johnson Field in Tokyo, Japan immediately after the end of World War II. While there he helped develop the first ever pilot technical for the P-51D fighter plane. He returned to the US in 1947 and graduated from Henderson State in 1949 and spent his tour of duty at Johnson Field in Tokyo, Japan immediately after the end of World War ll. After two years in the oil business near El Dorado, he began his banking career at the Union Bank of Mena, a business founded by his grandfather William J. Lauck in 1932. Starting as a teller in 1951, he worked in virtually every position at the bank, eventually rising to president, director and stockholder. Bill continued his service at the bank until his death, a period of 65 years. During this time, he also served as a director of the Arkansas Bankers Association.
Bill was very dedicated to his community of Mena serving in many capacities including: president of the Chamber of Commerce; member and president of the Mena Airport Commission; board member of the Rich Mountain Community College; president of the Lion’s Club and he was a Mason. A man of quiet faith, he also served in many leadership capacities with the First United Methodist Church of Mena.
From childhood, Bill had a love of aviation. Before he was old enough to drive a car, he soloed at age 14 in a Piper Cub flying from a cow pasture near Mena. Over the years, he flew many different types of private and military aircraft from single to multi-engines. As a private pilot, he and his family enjoyed many vacations in the family plane. He was a long time member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and was a founding Commander of the Mena Chapter of the Civil Air Patrol in the 1960’s. Upon retiring as president of the bank, he began constructing his own World War I Fighter plane replica from only a set of plans. He successfully completed and flew the plane and enjoyed many hours of flying this aircraft at airshows around Arkansas. His flying career was capped in 2011 when he was awarded the Wright Brother’s Master Pilot Award by the FAA. This award is extremely rare and is a testament to his skill as a pilot and his passion for flying.
Bill was also an avid sportsman and adventurer. He enjoyed golf, tennis, hunting, fishing, water skiing, snow skiing and car racing. He also raised quarter horses and enjoyed riding and rodeo. His love for Razorback football and basketball was topped only by the enjoyment of his many pets. His many dogs and cats were always with him, especially his faithful Bulldogs.
Most important in Bill’s life was his family-his pride and joy. He was married to Julia James in 1949, and later to Marg Johnson Cox and had four children. He was preceded in death by, wife Marg, and by his father, Lake J. Wood; his mother, Ellen Lauck Wood Boswell: his sister, Mary Jo Gooch; his half-brother, Jay Wood; and his son-in-law, Cotton Ashley. Bill is survived by, his four children, Beth Strickland and husband John of Bentonville, Arkansas; Ken Wood and wife Kathy of Prosper, Texas; Keith C. Wood of Bentonville, Arkansas; and Lynn Ashley of Mena, and by his beloved grand-children and great grand-children, Garland Autry and wife Sarah of Fayetteville, Arkansas and their children, Titus and Haddie, Garrett Autry and wife Alex of Lowell Arkansas; Lakelin Ashley of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Morgan Ashley of the University of Arkansas his half-sister, Judy Lambert of Beverly Hills, California, and by numerous nieces, nephews; cousins, and countless dear friends and associates. Bill will be greatly missed by all.
The family wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the blessed and devoted care-givers Bill had in his life: Ann Hughes, Beverly Huber, Barbara Rice, Darlene May and Bonnie Stiltner. Your love and kindness will be forever remembered.
In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the Rich Mountain Community College Foundation in honor of Bill Lauck Wood.
Funeral services will be at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, March 25, 2016 at the First United Methodist Church of Mena with Pastor Ann Ferris officiating. Interment will follow in the Pinecrest Memorial Park under the direction of the Beasley-Wood Funeral Home.
Visitation will be Thursday, March 24, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Beasley-Wood Funeral Home.
Pallbearers will be Garland Autry, Garrett Autry and Lakelin Ashley, which are his grandsons. Other pall bearers are Billy Ray Cathey, Darrell Whisenhunt, John Maddox, Danny Thrailkill and Jeff Montgomery.
Honorary pallbearers are the members of the Board of the Union Bank of Mena.