William (Bill) Heard
October a month of freedom for former Pasco man
These days, Bill Heard is an 83-year-old retiree known for his enthusiastic support of his favorite high school sports teams.
But 62 years ago this month, the former Pasco man was on his way home from a Japanese prison camp at the end of World War II. He still bears physical scars from that difficult time, but you wouldn't know it while talking to him.
"He's really happy guy. He's very active. I think it would drive him crazy if he couldn't get out and do things," said his great-niece, Mara Hull, 26. She's from Burbank and now lives in California.
Heard was mentioned last week in the Tri-City Herald's "On This Day" section, which features old news items culled from archived editions of the paper.
On Oct. 4, 1945, information was published saying Heard's parents had gotten word he was safe after three years as a prisoner of war. The item said he was an Army private, but he'd actually been promoted to corporal, Heard said by phone Friday with a chuckle.
He now lives in a retirement community in Spokane.
When family members told Heard he was mentioned in last week's paper, he thought,
"They still remember me down there, huh?" he said.
Heard grew up in Pasco and left high school to join the Army in January 1941. He was sent to the Philippines that April.
He spent time as a prisoner of war there and in Japan, he said. Heard still has a shell fragment in his lung from the war.
"I try not to think about it any more than I have to. But every time I move, I can remember it," he said of that time.
Heard's niece, Teresa Campbell of Kennewick, doesn't remember hearing her uncle tell stories from the war during his visits
when she was a kid.
"We were too young to understand what it meant," she said. "(Now) it does make you look differently on a person who went
through that. It was pretty bad time," she said.
It doesn't appear to have changed Heard's disposition.
He always has been a lively, mischievous addition to family gatherings, family members said.
Heard married his wife of nearly 45 years, Virginia, after the war. They had a son and a daughter. Virginia died in 1991.
He worked different jobs as a young man and eventually retired from the post office. Now he spends much of his time
cheering for the sports teams of West Valley High School in Spokane.
"He's a great rooter and supporter. People know who he is," said district spokeswoman Sue Shields. Her own daughter was a West Valley athlete and helped buy Heard a letterman's jacket as a thank you a few years ago.
The 83-year-old also cheered hard at his great-niece Hull's school softball games. He'd often drive from Spokane to the Tri-Cities
for the games.
"He didn't talk about (the war) a lot. Mostly he just liked to talk about the present and happy things. He bears no ill will about that, though, which I find really amazing. He's a great person," Hull said.
Credit: Tuesday 9 October 2007 at 11:22 Tri-City Herald By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writer
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