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WORLD FOCUS: From sub chaser to colonial printer
December 1, 2017

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Bill Dell, Capt. USN (Ret.) of Williamsburg, could have easily served as a poster boy for U.S. Navy recruitment.

"I was raised in the deep-South, Little Rock, Arkansas, and service to one's country was commonplace," said Dell in an interview with the News. "After high school, my brother, Jack, gained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. I was still at high school and at the beginning of my senior year. Our then governor, Orville Faubus, in a heinous act to stop the integration of the Little Rock high schools, closed them. "

Dell completed high school at the Marion Military Institute in Alabama and obtained an appointment, just like his brother, to the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated in 1964, and shortly after attended Flight School in Florida and Texas. He was designated a naval aviator and started his 27-year career in the U.S. Navy.

His specialty was anti-submarine warfare. He was a member of two patrol squadrons, piloting his work-horse, a Lockheed P3-B aircraft, over the oceans of the world. During his career as a naval aviator, Dell accumulated more than 5,000 flying hours. The patrols kept him and his crew in the air 12 hours during each flight.

Dell, during his military service, has been officer in charge of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Center in Bermuda. He was commanding officer of the Training Squadron 28, and he played leadership roles at various other branches of the navy.

I asked Dell whether he had some role models. Interestingly, he named his wife, Suzanne, the daughter of a U.S. Coast Guard captain, and members of his own family as examples.

"All of them instilled in me the core beliefs in the value of honesty, ethics and integrity in one's daily life," he said.

After dodging Soviet-made SAM-2 surface-to-air missiles over Vietnam, after landing crippled aircraft, and Suzanne moving their family 23 times, Dell decided to retire.

"The navy offered me awesome responsibilities, where risk included human lives, not just profits or reputation," he said. "I experienced moment of high emotion and exhilarating flights when you are completing a successful mission with a well-trained, dedicated crew. There are also scary moments of landing a damaged plane or flying through enemy fire."

After completing his military service, Dell worked for the Points of Light Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission aimed to tackle serious social problems. But finally the time arrived to settle for good.

"We choose Williamsburg at the suggestion of our son, a medical doctor, and his wife, both graduates of William & Mary. In the almost 18 years we have been residents of the 'Burg, we can safely say we made the right decision," Dell said.

He quickly decided to get involved with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "I love to learn and teach," he said. "I thought, I would enjoy working in the historic area. An opening came up in the print shop. I was hired, worked as a colonial printer and then learned the book-binding trade."

"I thoroughly enjoy interpreting in front of school groups and occasionally travel to my grandchildren's schools to promote American history and Colonial Williamsburg," he said. "I believe President Reiss's recent initiative to double the size of Colonial Williamsburg's Teachers Institute will reap huge benefit in increasing visitation to CW. Families tend to vacation where their children want to go. Honing our elementary school teachers' American history skills and providing necessary tools to enhance telling the story of the founding of our great nation will undoubtedly peak the interest of our young students in visiting the cradle of our democracy."

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