William M. Palmer Jr., Vietnam veteran and pilot, dies at 65

Naval Academy graduate flew helicopters during the Vietnam War

December 09, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

William M. "Pops" Palmer Jr., a retired career Marine Corps officer and Vietnam veteran who later became a commercial pilot and educator, died Tuesday at his Sykesville home of complications after colon surgery.

He was 65.

William Merrill Palmer Jr., the son of an insurance salesman and a Stewart's department store manager, was born in Baltimore and raised in Arbutus.

He was a 1963 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and began his college studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology before being appointed to the Naval Academy.

After graduating from Annapolis in 1968, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, and became a Marine aviator after completing flight training.

During the Vietnam War, he flew CH-46 helicopters off the coast of Vietnam. After the end of the war, he began flying A-4 Skyhawks, C-9 medical transports and T-39 VIP transports, which were fixed-wing jets.

Mr. Palmer was discharged with the rank of major in 1988. Some of his decorations include the Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Cross of Gallantry.

From 1989 to 2003, he was a commercial pilot for US Airways, and from 2003 to 2005 he was employed by Northrop Grumman Corp. in Linthicum, working on a design for a guided-missile destroyer for the Navy.

Mr. Palmer returned to McDaniel College in Westminster, where he earned his teacher certification.

In 2006, Mr. Palmer began teaching algebra and geometry at North Carroll High School and, at his death, was on the faculty of Westminster High School.

"He was still teaching at his death," said a son, Chris Palmer of Valdosta, Ga.

Mr. Palmer had coached youth football for the South Carroll Cavaliers and Sykesville Raiders and lacrosse for the Freedom Optimist Club.

He was a Navy and Ravens football fan and enjoyed sailing. He also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.

Two of Mr. Palmer's favorite expressions, according to his son, were: "Your attitude determines your altitude" and "Semper Fi."

Mr. Palmer was a member of Friendship Baptist Church, 1391 Sykesville Road, Sykesville, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday. Burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery is set for 11 a.m. March 4.

Also surviving are his wife of 32 years, the former Carol Ann Jespersen; another son, Jon Palmer of Great Mills, St. Mary's County; two brothers, David Palmer of Towson and Dennis Palmer of Kildeer, Ill.; a niece; and a nephew.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.