Obituaries » Billy Cleveland Bell
April 1, 1935 – January 2, 2021
A military funeral honors ceremony will take place at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL at a later date. In lieu of flowers please make donations to www.honorflightwcf.org.Obituary Viewed 468 times
U.S. Navy LCDR Billy Cleveland Bell, 85, took flight for the final time, January 2, 2021. As angels lifted his wings, his departure was peaceful; he was pain-free at last.
A man of adventure who never saw a challenge he did not want to tackle or a problem he did not long to solve, Bill enjoyed sailing, diving and spelunking, and used his talents and perspective to bring beauty, color, and light to walls everywhere with his oil and acrylic paintings. He also delivered and received a great deal of satisfaction from musical performances, playing guitar and piano, and singing in local barbershop quartets, including The New Edition which earned the 1975 State Championship. COVID-19 eventually took that voice from Billy, but it was never able to steal his sweet song, sincere smile, and love of life.
Bell was born on April 1, 1935 in Corinth, MS to William and Wilda Bell and grew up in Sheffield, AL. Following his graduation from the University of Alabama ’56, he ventured into a 30-year plus education career, starting in Port Arthur, TX, before moving to Florida to join the staff at Lakeland Junior High.
Having been involved with the Naval Reserve since age 16 and a half, the next year, the future “Corktip Bell” entered the U.S. Navy. He attended Officer Candidate School in New Port, RI where he was commissioned an Ensign. He served on the LST 1169 USS Whitfield County for two years before becoming a Navy OCS instructor. Next, he attended Flight School in Pensacola, FL, Meridian, MS, and Kingsville, TX. Upon receiving his wings, he flew F9F Cougars and F8 Crusaders. He served aboard The USS Ticonderoga CVA-14 and the USS Constellation CVA-64 before retiring after 23 years of service in 1969.
Following his military retirement, LCDR Bell returned to The Sunshine State where he worked as a production line supervisor at Florida Tile and Kraft Foods while earning his Master’s and Education Specialist degrees from Rollins College. He then taught science at Kathleen Junior High before moving to Lake Gibson High School where he taught biology and then served as the Assistant Principal of Curriculum for 20 years. Mr. Bell was fascinated by the early development of computers and became instrumental in facilitating their use in Polk County Secondary Schools. After his School Board retirement in 2003, he became the network manager for the Academic & Research Charter School at LGHS and Testing Coordinator at Kathleen High School.
Bell had one sister: Laura (Pete) Phillips and three children: Steven (Kim) Bell, Lisa (John) MacGregor, and Michael (Lori) Bell.
For the past 16 years, Bill and his wife Cathy Taylor Bell, have made memories one moment at a time. Following her retirement in 2018, they began each day together singing Travis Tritt’s “It’s A Great Day to Be Alive.” Bill was a caring stepfather to Cathy’s three children, Cassie (Joe) Rule, Tyrone (Rachael) Thomas, and Catrina Thomas, and a much-loved Grandaddy/G-Daddy to their children: Nathaniel and Cate Bagomolny and Crew Thomas.
A military funeral honors ceremony will take place at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL at a later date. In lieu of flowers please make donations to www.honorflightwcf.org.