Class of ‘44 veteran reminisces with students

Samantha Maddux

Bill Feeler is a World War II veteran who has lived in Phelps County for all 95 years of his life. He graduated from Rolla High School in 1944. On November 23, he came to visit English teacher Janice Webb’s class to discuss some of his life experiences. He and his wife, Geneva, have been married for 68 years and have raised three children in the Rolla area. Throughout his life, Feeler has seen many changes in Phelps County.
Feeler is not the only member of his family to fight in a World War. His father also served in the military during World War I.
“My dad was a blacksmith who shoed horses in World War I, but he never went overseas,” said Feeler.
Feeler has lived through many tough times. During the Great Depression, Feeler’s family farmed and had to save as much food as possible for the winter.
“My mother would can everything she could get her hands on,” said Feeler.
Feeler attended RHS when the town was a lot smaller. Feeler can remember how the town reacted to the war.
“Rolla was 4500 people when I went to high school and we practically knew everybody in town,” said Feeler. “Everybody was for the war effort, even little kids. Now we don’t have flip-top soda cans. We had the caps. They would be out picking up caps for the war effort. You picked up every bit of scrap metal that you could find and that won the war effort.”
Soon after graduating high school, Feeler was drafted into the war.
“And I thought it’ll be over before I have to go, then I turned 18 and graduated from high school,” said Feeler. “I got a letter from Roosevelt saying, ‘Greetings, your friends and neighbors have selected you’ and I thought, ‘they never talked to me about that.’”
Feeler performed many duties during the war that kept him away from the frontlines.
“I had good duty wherever I went. I didn’t have to go to the frontline. I delivered supplies and I delivered food. I did whatever was necessary,” said Feeler.
Feeler was stationed in the Philippines before being sent to Japan for nine months.
“The Philippines was hot, terribly hot. And mosquitoes were terrible. It rained all the time. When we’d sleep we had to put a net over us to keep the mosquitoes from eating us up,” said Feeler.
As soon as he was allowed to, he went straight home.
“They said you’re free to go if you can find a way, and the way I remember is I found this ship that was headed down from Tokyo to Seattle, Washington,” said Feeler.
When Feeler got home from Japan, he went right to work and kept himself very busy.
“I worked for the government for 26 years, including my military service. And I went over and started driving a school bus…for 28 years,” said Feeler.
Feeler really enjoyed driving a school bus and often would treat the kids on his bus to a special treat for special events.
“There were certain days, about three days a year like maybe Easter and Christmas and the end of the school year that I first started taking them all to Dairy Queen. I’d notify Dairy Queen we were coming and let them get whatever they wanted,” said Feeler.
Bill Feeler has seen a lot in his life, from the Great Depression to World War II to COVID-19. He enjoys sharing his stories with others. He was very kind to the group of students he was speaking to, and even told a few jokes. There is so much he can teach us.
“There’s things that I remember I wish I could forget, and there’s things I forgot I wish I could remember,” said Feeler.