He was well loved by family and longtime friends, and by everyone he met. He genuinely cared for and liked people, and was known by name everywhere he went. He fondly became known as “Mr. Bill,” a name he always treasured. When he moved to Memphis to live with his daughter and son-in-law, he kept in touch with his dear friends in Cleveland. His daughter would receive Facebook messages and texts that said to “tell Mr. Bill hello, and we miss him.” He was a member of North Cleveland Church of God.
He was born, Nov. 27, 1929, in Forrest City, Ark., where he spent the first 11 years of his life. His family moved to Cleveland in 1940 so his dad could work at Service Cleaners.
Cleveland was where he met the love of his life, Bernice Ingram, on a blind date. They were married on July 29, 1950, and were married until she died in 1998. He never stopped missing her.
He served as a corporal in the United States Army 278th Infantry Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War. He was in communications, and attended The Infantry School in Fort Benning, Ga. He was also stationed at Fort Devins, Mass., and Pine Camp, N.Y., where he received an honorable discharge in 1951.
He always said Pine Camp was the coldest place on earth, and was never surprised when it was the coldest place in the country on a given day. Bernice followed him through his travels as much as possible. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army, Billy worked at Sherwin Williams.
In 1957 he opened his own business in downtown Cleveland, The Hobby Mart, and The Camera Center. His father-in-law, W.C. Ingram, worked alongside him. They formed a father-son bond rather than a father and son-in-law relationship.
In 1962, Billy and Bernice were blessed with the apple of his eye, their daughter, Pamela Diane. He waited a long time for her, and he was thrilled the baby turned out to be a girl. Pamela had Billy wrapped around all her fingers, but she still gave him the love, honor, and respect he well deserved.
In 1964, Billy combined his two stores into one, and relocated to the Village Shopping Center where he remained until his retirement in 1992. He could not go out in public without someone saying how much they missed The Hobby Mart. His retirement was short lived as he took a “part-time” position with Pinkerton Security working at Bradley Square Mall and the Coca-Cola Company. This part-time job turned into a 40-hour a week assistant chief of security with the mall.
He suffered his heart attack while working there, but returned after he recovered. He retired from that position in 1999 only to start a volunteer position at the North Cleveland Church of God Family Ministry Center. This became a paid position, and he loved every minute of it. He could not wait to get to work to have coffee with “the guys” who became close and cherished friends.
When he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer, he gladly moved to Memphis to spend his last days with his daughter and son-in-law.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Horace M. White, Sr. and Agnes White Jordan; brother and sister, Horace M. White Jr. and Bernice Williams; and his beloved “granddog,” Felice.
He is survived by his daughter, Pamela Stevens and her husband, Jim, of Memphis; his beloved “grandcat” Lilo; step-grandson, Luke Stevens of Santa Clara, Calif.; step-granddaughter, Joanna Stevens of Orlando, Fla.; and numerous nieces, nephews and cherished friends.
The funeral will be conducted at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in the chapel of Fike Funeral Home with Pastor Mitch Maloney officiating.
Interment will follow in Hilcrest Memorial Gardens with military honors. David Ingram, Demetrius Lewis, Mack Streun, Jamie Jackson, Anthony Fister and Isaac Oakes will serve as pallbearers. A white dove release ceremony will conclude the service.
His family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.
Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105 or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
We invite you to send a message of condolence and view the White family guestbook at www.fikefh.com.