William James Wegley

April 19, 1925 - March 13, 2018

William James Wegley

April 19, 1925 - March 13, 2018


Our beloved World War II veteran, William “Bill” James Wegley, passed away on the morning of March 13, 2018 at St. Joseph’s Hospital Bellingham, WA. He was 92 years young. Bill was born April 19, 1925 in Monroe, WA to William and Ivah Wegley. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Maria “Luz” Wegley; son James Wegley (Cheryl) of Bellingham, daughters JoAnn Rohde (Tom) of Bellingham and Barbara Johnson (Bob) of Tonasket, step-son John Stocklass, and step-daughter Louise Popelka; 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great-grandchildren.

Bill grew up in the Bellingham area and has been part of its history. As a child he fished, hunted, and explored the then small town of Bellingham, making his $2/month washing dishes at the family owned Hamburger Express railcar diner. Bill attended Bellingham High School in 1941, and then at 16 years old as the US prepared for World War II, he joined the re-instated Washington State Guard.

At 17 years old, Bill proudly volunteered to serve in World War II and enlisted in the US Navy. His four years Naval service as a Ship’s Cook took him from the NTS Farragut, ID to the USS Baldwin DD-624, R/S Navy 128, the USS Baltimore CA-068, and the PSC USNB Bremerton, WA. Bill was a survivor of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy’s Omaha Beach, the longest 72-hour day of his life. He earned the Asiatic Pacific Area Campaign Medal, the American Area Campaign Medal, the European African ME Area Campaign Medal (2 Stars), the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. Bill separated from the Navy in 1946 and later re-enlisted in the US Army in 1949 for another year of service before separating in 1950.

Post-WWII Bill worked in Bellingham’s coal mines, lumber mills, and Ports. His love of fishing kept him close to the waterfront and his decision one day to make a skiff with a $20 pile of roadside lumber launched his career as an Alaskan gillnetter and boat builder. Wegley Boat Works became an established nameplate of commercial salmon fishing from the coastline of California to the waters of Yakutat and Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Bill’s blue eyes would light up as he told his infamous stories of childhood, fishing, boat building, travels, wrestling, and his next inventions or business ideas. He proudly wore his WWII Veteran hat everywhere and recollected the stories of war unfound in history books. His smile and mischievous laugh will stay in our memories forever.

Please join us as we celebrate his Memorial Service with Military Honors on April 15th, 2018, 2:00pm to 5:00pm at Squalicum Boathouse in Zuanich Point Park, 2600 Harbor Loop, Bellingham, WA 98225.

Memorial Service

  • Date & Time: April 15, 2018 (12:00 AM)
  • Venue: Squalicum Boathouse
  • Location: 2600 North Harbor Loop Dr Bellingham, WA 98225 - (Get Directions)

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7 responses to William James Wegley

  1. Greta says:

    Have loved our Wegley gillnetter for years! Thank you and rest in peace.

  2. Larry Powell says:

    Hey Bill – Ahoy & Bon VoyageMost of all, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

    Of course I want to thank you for your friendship and time we had together here in Yakutat and thanks for your knowledge of fishing and boats plus your eagerness to share that expertise with us all who sought it!!
    My family will always remember Bill when we take off up the bay in our Wegley skiff built in 1976 ❤️

    Our sincere condolences to Luz, Jim, girls, grandchildren and great grandchildren

    Larry Caroline & Family

  3. Bill was a pioneer in the fiberglass commercial boat industry. His designs will be a legacy in the Pacific NW for years to come.
    My sincere condolences to the family, and congratulations for a life well lived to Bill.

  4. RANNY MANN says:

    Your Dad was an amazing old salt! The groundwork had been established as we know in the proliferation of Wegley Hulls from North to South. Glad you are still producing originals and that Gene gets to finish some w/ his complimentary one-off tophouse, flying bridge and solid interior designs. Keep the wheels churning, as Bill would say…



  5. I am so sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. I remember his many stories Glenand I listened to and laughed with you and Bill.Hugs

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