The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is saddened to announce the passing of esteemed Board member, William (Bill) Willoughby, on Aug. 5, 2023. He was an original member to the CMP Board in 1996 and served for 19 years until his retirement in September 2015 – marking his place as the longest serving Programs Committee Chair.
“Bill was an active Board member and the only Ohio member,” said Judy Legerski, former CMP Chair and CEO, as she reflected upon Willoughby’s strengths in building the organization. “He kept us focused and was an enthusiastic competitive shooter. Bill’s own successful business experience provided great leadership in the early days of the new CMP, as we found our way forward.”
Harry Sieben, another CMP Board member who worked alongside Willoughby for decades, shared Legerski’s professional sentiments, saying, “Bill Willoughby had a great business mind, and he was forceful in insisting that the CMP use sound business practices.”
“One incident I clearly remember is an example,” he went on. “During a CMP Board meeting, the CPA firm that audited the corporation was explaining to the board that CMP executives were operating smoothly. Mr. Willoughby interrupted the testimony and told the auditor, ‘We aren’t interested in hearing about things that go right – we want to hear about what is wrong.’ He always wanted to know where our problems were, and we learned a lot from his business mind.”
CMP Board member Cris Stone looked back on his time with Willoughby by remembering his compassion. He described him by saying, “Bill Willoughby was by all measures an amazing man. His life touched so many across all walks of life. He was . . . a mentor, a leader, a giver. His influence, his heart and his amazing mind reached out not only to individuals— many of them young people just starting out in life— but also to his industry and to institutions he supported.”
“Bill Willoughby was a friend. And if he was your friend, you were very fortunate,” Stone added.
A memorial service will be held on Sept. 2, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 3630 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights, Ohio, 44118. Willoughby will be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
Bill Willoughby’s Legacy:
Willoughby was born on June 8, 1937. Raised within a military family, he followed his Army colonel father and family around the country and the world – living in such places as Japan after World War II and Washington D.C. He even described visiting the outskirts of Hiroshima by train and witnessing the devastation left by the atomic bomb.
Eager to begin a military career of his own, he attended his first Army training at 10 years old before moving on to the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and graduating from West Point in 1960. He credited the academy for not only preparing him for military service but also for civilian life.
While at West Point, Willoughby joined the pistol team after sustaining a knee injury. Participating on the team allowed him time to heal as well as to gain marksmanship experience under one of the greatest coaches of the time, Sgt. Maj. Huelet Leo “Joe” Benner – an Olympic gold medalist, Camp Perry legend and national champion.
After graduation from West Point, Willoughby gained more training experience at Infantry, Airborne, Ranger and Special Forces qualification schools. A company commander at age 26, he served two tours in Vietnam and served as a Battalion Operations Officer. In November 1968, he was severely wounded while leading combat operations. Despite his wounds that day, he continued to command air and ground operations receiving the Silver Star for courage and gallantry in combat. During his recovery he used his time to earn a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Tulane University.
In 1971, he was medically retired from the Army. His many honored recognitions from outstanding military service include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Air Medal and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Through the years, Willoughby remained connected to West Point and the Army. He was appointed West Point Admissions Coordinator for Northeast Ohio in 1979 and assumed the role for the entire state in 2010. Over that 30+ years he was directly responsible for literally countless young men and women attending West Point. Willoughby is considered a legend in USMA Admissions circles. Willoughby was also involved in supporting Junior Reserve Officer Training Command (JROTC) initiatives, bringing multiple units to Cleveland schools.
Additionally, he was appointed as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army beginning in December 1994, engaging the Army Recruiting Command, ROTC, Army National Guard, Army Reserve and veterans’ groups in Ohio. His accomplishments as Aide led him to earn the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal in 1997. Subsequently, Willoughby was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2008 and was honored by the Joint Veterans Commissions of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, as the Outstanding Veteran of the Year in February 2011. He transitioned into an Emeritus role in March 2018.
On May 22, 2012, Willoughby was presented the U.S. Military Academy Distinguished Graduate Award for his lifelong commitment to West Point’s mission of education and training after being nominated by his classmates – the first of the Class of 1960.
In civilian life, Willoughby moved his skills to the private sector in quality control before becoming a plant manager in a manufactured housing enterprise. He eventually found his place as manager at Parker Hannifin in Cleveland where he rose to the president’s office at Pettibone Ohio Corporation, making railroad components.
In 1984, he started his own company, Cleveland Track Material – beginning with only five employees. He built a workforce from local residents, including immigrants to the United States, those impoverished and those unemployed. His company became so successful that it was selected in 2002 to design and fabricate track products used to rebuild and reopen the transportation hub at the World Trade Center site. By 2007, his workforce had grown to 260 employees and was recognized as one of the ”100 Best Places to Work in Northeast Ohio.” It went on to win other enterprise awards for excellence in productively and community support.
In his personal life, Willoughby valued family and youth, serving as a Cub Scout master, troop committee chairman and on the Boy Scout Executive Board. He and his wife Ann had three children, Bill, Mary and John, and several grandchildren.
— Ashley Dugan, CMP Staff Writer
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.
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