William Edward Shannon, age 83, born 1937 in East St. Louis, Illinois, died suddenly on Aug. 2, 2020 at St. Vincent Healthcare.
He graduated from Assumption High School in East St. Louis in 1955, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school. He served as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate on the U.S.S. Hornet, making two WestPac cruises, which served as a source for numerous stories of Hong Kong, Japan and Hawaii over the years. After the Navy, he attended Belleville Junior College, then graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in history, where he met and married Judy (nee Leonard). They moved to Columbia, Illinois, where he taught history, German and construction trades, and worked as an ironworker in the summer and as a printing press operator at nights. He also coached basketball and softball. In 1968, they had a son, Brendan. Judy was a teacher as well, and they spent two summers fishing and camping in Northern Manitoba, Canada, in the early 1970s. He took up farming in 1973, restoring an old brick farmhouse just as the oil embargo was starting. He continued to teach and raised hogs, baled hay and worked as an electrician after school.
He was lucky and smart enough to retire early and moved between Florida, where he spent a few months living aboard a sailboat, and Northern Minnesota, where he again made extended camping trips and fished for walleye in the Superior National Forest and the area around Echo Lake. In the early 1990s, he gutted and rebuilt a farmhouse in the Mississippi River bottom that had been destroyed in the flood of 1993. He was proud of his German-style beer garden and horseshoe pit, and roasted many hogs in the overbuilt barbecue pit there under the shade of sugar maples. He restored a VW Beetle with his son, and a Ford Mustang with friends there.
In 2006, he and Judy moved to Billings to be close to their son Brendan, who worked at Montana Nephrology Associates and St. Vincent as a kidney doctor. Bill was surprised to make it to 83, and just celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago. His health had been declining, and he spent the last few years mostly reading and watching TV, but he always had a garden, and was just starting to enjoy his tomatoes. He lived a good life, and definitely enjoyed life to the fullest. He was incredibly generous with his time, and was a teacher until the end. He loved his family and grandkids.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Catherine Shannon; and older brother Robert. He is survived by his brother, Edward; wife Judy, and their son Brendan and his wife Michelle of Seattle; and his grandchildren Katherine, Fran and Luke. He liked that his first grandchild was named after his mother.
He was nicknamed Teasy by his grandkids, Bear by his students and Boots by his brothers. He did enjoy teasing Katherine, Fran and Luke, and was somewhat ruthlessly competitive on the cornhole court, pool table, chess board, and card table with them. He and Fran had a game of stealing each other’s hats and he taught her how to paint trees like Bob Ross. He will be missed.
Funeral mass is at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 7, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 2055 Woody Ave., in Billings.