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1941 William Walter Koelm 2024

Colonel William Walter Koelm (ret)

April 21, 1941 — May 26, 2024

Colonel William Walter Koelm (ret) passed from this earth on May 26, 2024, in Albuquerque, NM surrounded by his loving family. William "Bill" was born to Walter and Opal Koelm on April 21, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois and grew up on a farm near Edgewood, Illinois with younger brother Raymond. Bill had a thirst for learning at a young age which culminated in obtaining a National Merit Scholarship for college. Bill pursued a Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Illinois, where he was a member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity and ROTC. He later returned to the University of Illinois for his master's degree as well.

Bill graduated in 1964 and promptly joined the Air Force; obtaining a height waiver to become a fighter pilot. Bill served several highly decorated tours in Vietnam followed by numerous tours in the US as well as Europe to eventually retire after 26 years of service with the rank of Colonel. His final assignment was as Base Commander at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, NM. Bill was a command pilot with 3,000 flying hours. He flew the T-37, T-38, F-105, F-106, O-1, O-2, OV-10, and OA-37 aircraft. His military awards and distinctions include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with 19 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with device and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with seven devices. He graduated from Air War College, Army Command and Staff College, and Air Command and Staff College.

Bill married Lina Darrough in 1969. Lina was his steadfast supporter throughout his military career until her unexpected death in 1987. Bill finished raising their two children, Bill Jr. and Jennifer, on his own. Bill remained close to Lina's family, owning a cabin near other Darrough family in the mountains of Colorado.

Following his career in the Air Force, Bill became town manager for the small mountain community of Kremmling, Colorado where he met his second wife, Norma Jean Dawson, whom he married in 2003. He eventually returned to New Mexico to become Director of Maintenance and Operations for Albuquerque Public Schools, which became his second career until eventual retirement in 2006.

Bill loved to travel and proudly noted that he went around the world twice with only a backpack. Some of the special places he visited with Jean included Easter Island, Tahiti, China, Thailand, the Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand, Austria, Holland by canal boat, Bonaire, an island rented in Panama, and countless other locations. Jamaica, where Bill and Jean married, remained their favored beach location - returning yearly.

Bill was an avid fisherman and was most at home at his family's cabin where he would regularly catch epic numbers of trout after a day on the Fryingpan River. His time at the cabin will forever provide treasured memories, particularly trips to the "Meadows" as well as Savage and Granite Lakes. He also enjoyed golf and gardening, particularly roses. He was a fan of science fiction and astronomy. Most of all, Bill always appreciated a good story.

His life of service, dedication as a loving parent and husband, curiosity for the world, and above all his integrity, continues to remain a model for all he left behind. He had a wry sense of humor and always made time for family. Bill's biography, entitled "Colonel Grandpa" ended by stating, "If there are lessons to be learned from my stories, it's that I became successful in life by reading everything I could starting at an early age, learning to listen, and knowing how much risk it takes to get the job done rather than flame out." He left this world reminding us to "stop and smell the roses", "be brave" and "not to worry."

Bill was preceded in death by Lina and is survived by his wife, Norma Jean Koelm; his son, Bill Koelm Jr., wife, Julia and children, Mena and Katy; his daughter, Jennifer Koelm, husband, Jeffrey Hermanson and granddaughter, Maeve Hermanson; his brother, Raymond Koelm and family; and numerous loving in-laws, nieces, nephews, and friends.

Visitation will be held Monday, June 10, 2024, beginning at 9:30 a.m. followed by a Funeral Service at 10:00 a.m., at FRENCH - Westside Chapel. A reception will follow at the same location, the Graveside Service will take place at 2:30 p.m., at Santa Fe National Cemetery.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Colonel William Walter Koelm (ret), please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, June 10, 2024

9:30 - 10:00 am (Mountain time)

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Memorial Service

Monday, June 10, 2024

10:00 - 11:00 am (Mountain time)

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Reception

Monday, June 10, 2024

11:00am - 1:00 pm (Mountain time)

FRENCH - Westside Reception room

9300 Golf Course Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114

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Graveside Service

Monday, June 10, 2024

2:30 - 3:00 pm (Mountain time)

Santa Fe National Cemetery

501 N Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

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