William Gerald Stryker, age 103, won’t answer when you call him William or Bill because everybody in his family went by a nickname of their middle names, so he became “Jerry.” He was born Jan. 4, 1917 in the small town of Troy, Ohio, where it was common practice that every Saturday night the townsfolk would gather in the square to talk and share about the things going on of their lives that week. It was a wonderful place to grow up, a place where people genuinely cared about other people.
Mr. Stryker had a mother and father and two brothers, but he lost one brother to consumption at a very young age. It was a miracle Mr. Stryker managed to survive the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which took about 50 million people of the world’s population. He went on to graduate from Troy High School in 1934.
Mr. Stryker’s first job was at Waco Aircraft in Troy, where he learned to wire instrument panels in airplane cockpits. These instrument panels on aerial combat planes allowed the pilot to determine his altitude, his direction, the length of time he was in the air, the mileage to his specific location and if he was flying upside down or right side up.
In 1936, Mr. Stryker attended the World’s Fair in Cleveland, which was also called The Great Lakes Exposition. He had never seen anything like this before.
When he returned from Cleveland he interned at Hobart Corporation, a food service equipment company in Troy.
Mr. Stryker’s uncle lived in California and raised turkeys on his ranch. He needed extra help one year and asked Mr. Stryker if he would be able to help out. He decided to give it a go, and he learned all about turkey behavior that year.
After that, Mr. Stryker attended Port Arthur College in Texas and obtained an electronics education in radio. He acquired two FCC issued commercial operator licenses; a first-class radio telegraph license and a first-class radio telephone license (which he faithfully continues to renew every few years). He became very proficient in Morse code and radio transmitter operations at KPAC, Port Arthur’s College radio station. Mr. Stryker’s Morse code instructor suggested that he join the Naval Reserves after college.
Mr. Stryker took his advice and joined up as a Morse code operator. He served on the USS Dubuque (PG-17), a Navy patrol combatant ship that served in both World War I and World War II. Attached to the 9th Naval District, the USS Dubuque took Naval Reservists on cruises from Detroit and Chicago into Lakes Superior and Michigan every summer.
In 1941, Mr. Stryker moved to Dayton, Ohio, and was hired as a transmitter operator at the radio station WING. He was 24 years old and interested in meeting some people in the area. He asked a buddy at the station if he knew of any nice girls in the area. He gave Mr. Stryker Lillian Hartman’s name and phone number. Mr. Stryker called Lillian that night and asked her if she would consider going out on a date with him. She wasn’t overly impressed and asked him, “How do I know that you are who you say you are?” He told her to put the phone down and go outside and look up at the WING radio tower. This is where the magic happened. She did what he asked, and he blinked those tower lights over and over just for her. She was smitten. They were married a year later in 1942. It was a happy marriage.
After that, Mr. Stryker went to work for General Motors Aeroproducts Division. He worked in the aircraft vibration department where he tested RPM vibration and balancing on spinning aircraft propeller blades to prevent them from snapping.
Mr. Stryker was next hired at W.W. Boes Company where he designed aircraft instruments that were tested at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
He and Lillian had their first child in 1947, a son named Timothy. Then six years later I came along. My brother and I both consider ourselves truly blessed to have him as our Father.
Mr. Stryker’s last job was at Wright Patterson Air Force Base as an electrical/radio engineer. He was a skilled International Morse code operator and was also responsible for aircraft design and instrumentation on Air Force planes. In 1974 at age 57 he retired from W.P.A.F.B after 25 years.
One of Mr. Stryker’s favorite hobbies in his life has been sending Morse code to people from all over the U.S. on his ham radio. His call sign was W8RRN. He has made lots of friends over the years and actually met up with some people from other cities.
After Mr. Stryker retired, he and Ms. Stryker traveled all over the United States and bought homes in Ohio, Florida, Texas and Arizona. They moved into Royal Oaks Lifecare Community in 2010. After 75 years of being together almost every single day, Ms. Stryker passed away quietly one morning in February 2018, at age 97. Mr. Stryker misses her terribly and is looking forward to their reunion in heaven one day soon.
Unfortunately, Mr. Stryker has slowly been losing his eyesight over the last few years due to glaucoma. He is totally blind now but is determined to not let that stop him from continuing this adventurous life of his. He sees everyday as a gift from God and doesn’t want to waste even a minute of it.
Although Mr. Stryker contracted COVID-19 in July this year, not even that could not keep him down—he is a double pandemic survivor.
Mr. Stryker likes to keep busy every day, and he is such a kind and caring man. I don’t know of a single person whose life he hasn’t touched in some way. He enjoys listening to a few chapters from the Bible every morning on audio tape. Mr. Stryker has been trying to learn Spanish the past few years and likes to practice what he has learned with some of the amazing people who help him at Royal Oaks. He still listens to Morse code almost every day. If someone walks past his room they will hear the dit-dah dit-dah sounds repeatedly on his cassette player. He also loves his Richard Paul Evans audio books, which he plays over and over. One can also hear a tape of Ms. Stryker’s voice talking from past phone messages. Although Mr. Stryker can’t see photographs of her anymore, he can still hear her voice, and he cherishes that cassette tape most of all.