Veteran, motorcyclist, father: Remembering Bill Phelps

Published 4:55 pm Thursday, July 15, 2021

“He was the parent you could tell anything to,” said daughter Denise Lindquist, “he was a good listener, and he was never a stranger. If you wanted to get into Walmart and out of Walmart quick, never take him with you,” she laughed.

William Jack Phelps, better known as Bill, was a pillar of the Clark County community. He was an avid motorcyclist who enjoyed telling jokes, grilling – and most of all, honoring those who served in the armed forces.

Phelps was born to the late Carolyn Sue and Eddie Phelps on August 16, 1972, in Elyria, Ohio. An Army veteran, he would go on to become a member of two separate veteran support organizations: the Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder.

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“In 2019, he and I went to DC for a Rolling Thunder ride,” Lindquist, who is also a member of Rolling Thunder, reminisced. “For four full days, we went through DC together, trying to touch as many of the memorials and museums as we could. We were up at 5 a.m. and in bed by midnight. We finished the days at the Vietnam Wall, the World War II Monument and the Korean War Memorial. That’s probably my fondest memory of him.”

Lindquist explained that Phelps joined the army in 1989, ending up a part of Desert Storm and achieving the rank of Specialist. His military service ended in 2002, when he got out of Ohio’s National Guard, and in 2005, he moved to Clark County to be closer to family.

In 2008, Phelps got his first motorcycle, a Yamaha. Later he would acquire a Honda 1300 VTX and a Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager – his most recent ride.

“He liked the freedom, the thrill of riding a motorcycle,” explained Lindquist, “the freedom of a good country road with loud music and lots of curves. That was his favorite thing.” Phelps taught Lindquist herself how to ride a motorcycle in 2018 on the aforementioned Honda. He always advised to “keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.”

In 2013, Phelps joined the Patriot Guard Riders, a nonprofit organization that protects the families of fallen heroes from disruption to their services. They’re known for standing against protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, who call the deaths of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan “divine retribution.”

“The reason he always gave us for joining was he wanted to honor everyone that he could,” said Lindquist. “My dad, he could be walking down the grocery store aisle, there’d be a man in a veteran’s hat and my dad would stop and thank them for their service. Especially if it was a Vietnam veteran he’d add ‘welcome home. We’re glad you’re still here with us.’ It was important to him to make sure every veteran knows they are appreciated.”

Rolling Thunder, which Phelps joined in 2018, sets out to bring awareness to the POW MIAs. From World War II alone, 72,462 men and women are still unaccounted for. He was also a volunteer for Winchester’s Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter, which provides safe shelter, food, and resources towards self-sufficiency for homeless members of the community and surrounding counties.

“I think he taught us just to love everyone,” said Lindquist. “Do for others, because you never know, one day it might be you. Volunteer and just be kind. I think the legacy he leaves is just the legacy of giving. Giving to veterans, giving to the homeless, just go out there and be a good person.”

“Bill was truly one of a kind. He was compassionate and always put others first,” said Cpl. Matthew Bradford of Nicholasville, a retired US Marine and a friend of Phelps. “One of the many stories I have with Bill was two years ago when I was biking across Kentucky and we stopped on the side of the road in Paris. It was hot and we were almost to our stopping point for the day.  Bill unexpectedly showed up alone while we were sitting there. When I asked him what he was doing, thinking maybe he just happened to drive upon us, Bill said Matt is part of Rolling Thunder, one of our own and we are not going to let him do this without us next to him.  Bill is the true meaning behind ‘above and beyond’ for others. I am very blessed to have shared many stories and have many memories with Bill. He was a proud Patriot as he served this great country,  and continued to serve throughout his life. It is an honor to wear the Rolling Thunder vest and to even share the same birthday with him. The way Bill cared for others and lived his life should be emulated by all.  Until we meet again brother, Semper Fidelis!  You will certainly be missed and you will never be forgotten.”

Bill is survived by his wife of 16 years, Tracie. His children, Denise (Tim) Lindquist, Tori (Daniel) Hall, & Ryan. His stepchildren Timmy & Tommy Morrow. His grandchildren, Adrien Hall & Corbin Phelps. His Brothers, Russell (Melissa) Phelps & Jason (Sara) Phelps. His father-in-law, Earl Bacon and grandmother in law, Frances Hughart. He is survived by nieces and nephews, Stephanie Kaiser, Russell (Bri) Phelps, Brittany Phelps, Anthony, Frank Workman, Nick, Nathan, & Mason Roesch along with many great- nieces & great-nephews. He is also survived by numerous aunts, uncles & cousins.