Bill Karry

Submitted by Becky Orange Dwarshuis

Bill Karry was born in Chicago, Illinois in his grandfather’s house.

His mother always called him William. He attended Chicago public schools and continued his education at Wright College of Chicago. From there he went to Armour Institute, which later became the Illinois Institute of Technology. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Central College in Chicago. It later became a part of Roosevelt University. When he was a young boy, he took piano lessons and still loves singing and classical music. The Karrys regularly attend the Knoxville Symphony.

Shortly after meeting his wife, Kay, on a blind date, he fell in love with her. She had a different lifestyle, but similar interests. She lived on the southeast side of Chicago and he on the northwest side. Bill was in college and working in a chemistry lab. On Friday nights, he and his fraternity brothers would gather with their dates at Kay’s house to sing and dance, while her mother, Tula Fay Thomas Kelly, would play the piano for the young people. Before they were married, they decided to find a church to attend and join. It was then that he was baptized and became a Presbyterian. Bill and Kay were married in the Austin Presbyterian Church in Chicago on August 23, 1940.

When the war (WWII) was declared in 1941, he worked as a process engineer in an ordinance plant near Joliet, Illinois. The facility manufactured explosives for bombs (TNT) and detonators (lead azide).

After moving to California in 1943, he was employed by the Columbia Steel Company, an integrated steel mill and steel foundry, where he received on the job training as a metallurgist and did some formal studies at the University of California in Berkeley. Bill and Kay were living in Pittsburg, California, (close to San Francisco) when the explosion tragedy at Suisun Island occurred. Several ammunition ships and the feeder train blew up, killing over three hundred naval workers. Kay remembers that is was the most spectacular show of fireworks across the hills to the Port, about ten miles away. The concussion from the explosion blew out their picture window causing some of the shards to the walls, furniture, and worst of all, into Bill’s eyes. For some time, it was thought he would be blind in one eye. Miracles do happen. Bill recovered and can still see!

After the war, Bill and his little family returned to Chicago where he worked for seven years as technical director of a company that manufactured lead and tin products. He left that job to follow a sales career in the steel foundry industry and eventually became manager of a steel casting plant in Bay City, Michigan. In 1977, he returned to sales engineering and was employed by the Carborundum Company which became a part of BP Amoco. Their products were sold to iron and steel foundries. Kay and Bill moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1982 and he retired in 1983. In 1994, he and Kay moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to enjoy the beautiful mid-south.

The Karrys have four children: William, who lives in Urbanna, Virginia; Patricia Campbell, in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Kathleen Beaver, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and James, in Muskegon, Michigan. They have fourteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. One grandson, Finley Karry, graduated from the University of Tennessee.

It is an interesting story about how Bill and Kay decided to move to Knoxville. They were traveling around looking for a nice retirement community. They had left North Carolina and were heading to Nashville to check out different retirement homes. They stopped in Knoxville to spend the night. Kay was looking in the Yellow Pages for a restaurant, and right next to the word “Restaurant”, was the word “Retirement”. They saw the advertisement for Buckingham and called to make an appointment to see the community and type of facilities that were available. The Karrys decided to move to Knoxville. What a good move it was for Knoxville! After moving into their new home, they began to look for a church to join. Being Presbyterians, they visited most of the city’s PC (USA) churches. They decided that they liked the preaching and the friendly people at First Presbyterian. They are both active in a First Fellowship group and they enjoy the First Seniors group.

Many of our nonagenarians are hesitant about having their story written and included in the church bulletin. Bill was one of these. At the encouragement of Kay, he finally decided to tell his story. What an interesting life and what a great individual Bill Karry is.

When I asked Bill how he would like to the remembered, he said, “I think as a loving husband and father, a genial and cheerful companion, a compassionate friend to all and a firm believer that ‘goodness and mercy’ will prevail.” I think all who know him will agree.