John W. “Bill” Boulton, longtime Oklahoma City businessman, civic worker and aviation enthusiast, died Friday, April 15 at his residence at Epworth Villa. He was 94. Bill was the first of three sons of John W. Boulton Sr. and Irene Bartmess Boulton. He grew up in the Gatewood neighborhood and attended Oklahoma City schools, including a year at Classen High School. His father thought World War II was on the horizon and sent the three Boulton boys to school at Oklahoma Military Academy at Claremore. Bill was 15 when he entered OMA. His younger brothers Don and Bob joined him later. He was 19 when he finished at OMA and was commissioned a second lieutenant of cavalry in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley, KS with training in both horse and mechanized cavalry. Before going overseas, Bill participated in the last long horse cavalry march by the U.S. Army. They performed a march of over a 100 miles of Texas desert, ending at Fort Bliss, near El Paso. Bill went to England on the Queen Elizabeth. He spent 18 months training new troops before landing in France on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 12 hours. He commanded an armored assault unit until 58 days later when an enemy artillery shell exploded in a tree above his open scout car, sending shrapnel into his chest. The next two years were spent in hospitals for surgeries and recovery. Bill was evacuated back to the U.S. on the Queen Mary. He recalled that two other injured soldiers helped him come out on deck so he could see the Statue of Liberty as they entered New York Harbor. He was loaded on a troop train for more medical treatment at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX. Bill was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal and Battle Stars for Normandy and St. Lo. Bill was released from active duty and medically retired as a second lieutenant on Dec. 15, 1945.
Back home, Bill entered The University of Oklahoma. He received his degree in industrial engineering in 1948.
While at OU, Bill met a green-eyed, black-haired beauty named Evelyn Johnson. After a whirlwind courtship, they were married in June 1947. The new couple settled in Oklahoma City, where he went to work in the family business, Unit Parts Company. At one time, Unit Parts was the largest automotive parts rebuilder in the United States. Bill lived a life of service to his family, his friends, his church and community. He was active in many organizations, including over 50 years of active service in the Downtown Rotary Club.
Especially near and dear to his heart was the Boy Scouts of America. He volunteered countless hours of service to the Scouts at both the local and national level. Bill always said his Uncle Clem, a dairy farmer and crop duster in northeast Oklahoma, taught him to fly when he was 15. He received his pilot’s license while a student at OMA. He also had an Australian pilot’s license. Flying remained a lifelong passion. He flew hundreds of Angel Flights, where pilots would volunteer their airplanes and time to fly seriously ill patients for treatment when they could not afford needed transportation. The highlight of his Angel Flight career came on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Bill was called on to fly 640 pounds of whole blood to Lexington, KY, where he met another pilot to transport the lifesaving cargo on east. Bill’s Beechcraft was one of the few civilian airplanes in the skies of the United States that day, as all other civilian flights had been grounded. Bill twice served as chairman of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. He continued to fly until about 10 years ago. His flying career was recognized in 2003 when he was inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame.
Bill and Evelyn made their home at Epworth Villa the last few years. They were active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church. They had been married 68 years when Evelyn died last Dec. 17. He was also predeceased by his parents; and his brother, Bob. Bill is survived by his three children, Cynthia and husband John Merwin, Chatham, NJ; Sarah and husband David Evans, Edmond, OK; and J.W. “Bill” III, Austin, TX; and brother, Don Boulton and his wife, Grace, Oklahoma City; also, grandchildren, Anne and husband Andrew Shoaff, Washington, DC; Susan Merwin, Los Angeles; Emily and husband Matt Bischoff, Denver; Ben Evans, Edmond, OK; and Joanna Boulton, Austin; and three great-grandchildren, Samuel and Jonah Shoaff, and Evelyn Bischoff.
The family wishes to express its gratitude to the staff of Epworth Villa for their kind, loving care of Bill. Additionally, the family is deeply thankful to the Epworth Hospice staff for their daily help with Bill’s needs.
Services will be Tuesday, April 19 at 1 p.m. at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 7201 W. Britton Road in Oklahoma City. Memorial contributions may be made to Boy Scouts of America, Last Frontier Council, 301 NW 64th, Oklahoma City, OK 73116; or to Epworth at Home Hospice, 14901 N Pennsylvania, Oklahoma City, OK 73134.