VanCleave, William J., on December 11, 2020, beloved father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, great-uncle, and friend, passed away peacefully at the VA Hospital in Orlando, Florida. Van was born September 16, 1934 in Rickreall, Oregon to Raymond and Eleanora Van Cleave. He grew up in the splendor of the Oregon forest hunting and fishing with his family and friends. After graduating from Triangle Lake High School, Van joined the United States Air Force in 1952 and served his Country honorably for 30 years, retiring in 1981 as Master Sergeant. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. While in the Air Force, Van worked as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician, Flight Engineer, and Squadron First Sergeant. While serving in Vietnam, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor in aerial combat. His many other military medals and awards include twelve Air Medals, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. In 1967, he met Sarah Elizabeth Caldwell Carrigan in Nashville, Tennessee, and they were married on December 22 of that year. For the next 15 Air Force years, they would travel the world stationed in The Philippines, Japan, and Greece as well as bases in Texas, Idaho, and Virginia.
Upon retiring from the Air Force, they moved to Mobile, Alabama where Van attended Bishop State Junior College, graduating with an Associate’s Degree in jet engine maintenance. After graduation, Van landed a job with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Savannah, Georgia. He worked for 10 years with Gulfstream as an aircraft maintenance technician and supervisor. They loved their “Savannah Times” in their beautiful home on Talahi Island surrounded by oak trees, Georgia pines, and azaleas in the almost constant company of family and friends visiting them. Upon retirement from Gulfstream, they moved to Clarksville, Tennessee to be close to family living in Middle Tennessee, which now included several great-grandchildren. From there they moved to their home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee to be closer, yet, to family. After almost 48 years of adventure and rich family life together, Sarah passed away in 2014 at their home in Mt. Juliet. After a short time, Van’s granddaughter, Jenny, and her family moved to Titusville, Florida to pursue career opportunities. So, Van became a “snowbird”, spending summers and holidays in Tennessee and most of the school year in Florida with Jenny, Brian, and the “greats” in “McKinneyville”. Van attended Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville. He was an honorary football coach at Park Avenue Christian Academy, where he was every student athlete’s biggest fan. He followed those athletes to Astronaut High School and made his way into the stands for any practice or game he could. He moved to Titusville as a permanent resident earlier this year. He was the quintessential family man. He had a very large family for whom he loved and cared more than anything else in life. He wanted to spend all of his time with all of them. And, he did. He was known as “Granddaddy”.
He will forever be remembered and loved by family and friends as a loving, caring and kind man with a unique sense of humor, a man of faith who loved Jesus, and, as a proud American patriot and war hero with a booming “First Sergeant” voice. In addition to his wife Sarah, Van was preceded by his parents Raymond and Eleanora, his sister, MaryBelle Melton, and his brother, Emmett VanCleave. “Jay”, nicknamed by his family, is survived by his sisters, Dona Morgan, Shirley Carlson, Audrey Rust, Eunice Peterson, and Violet Weise; also by his brothers, Teddy VanCleave, Robert VanCleave, Terry VanCleave, and Jack VanCleave and countless nieces and nephews and “greats”. “Granddaddy” is also survived by his daughter, Linda Wood (Doyle) and son, Donald Carrigan; granddaughters, Jenny Wood McKinney (Brian), Julie Wood Harlan (Michael), Megan Carrigan, and grandson, Chris Wood (Renee). He is also survived by 8 great-grandchildren; great grandsons, Jackson McKinney, Ashton Wood, William “Cooper” Wood, Collin Adams, and great granddaughters, Sarah McKinney, Madison Wood, Atlee McKinney, and Katie Harlan.
A Celebration of Life service will be conducted 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, 2021 at Bond Memorial Chapel, 1098 Weston Dr., Mt. Juliet, TN. Visitation will be one hour prior to service time on Tuesday. Van will be buried alongside his wife, Sarah, at Mount Hope Cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee. Donations in his honor can be made to Disabled American Veterans (P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250-0301; www.dav.org)
Arrangements by Bond Memorial Chapel, N. Mt. Juliet Road, and Weston Drive, Mt. Juliet, TN (615)773-2663. www.bondmemorial.com