There are few people who have had more of an impact on our Museum than Bill Detweiler, who died March 27 at age 79. He was a great friend to so many of us, and his passing will be felt throughout the Museum, his beloved city of New Orleans, and the veterans community.
Attorney-at-law and past National Commander of the American Legion, Bill was involved with the Museum since the mid-1990s, serving at various points as a former Trustee, staff member, and volunteer, and most recently as our Consultant for Military and Veterans Affairs.
Bill was our go-to guy for so many things—helping plan our programs and events by securing color guards, military bands, chaplains, and speakers; serving as master of ceremonies for our commemorations; connecting the Museum with veteran and military organizations; and arranging escorts, security, and road closures. After Hurricane Katrina, Bill joined our staff and helped coordinate the Museum's first International Conference on World War II, a spectacular event that has become one of our most popular annual programs. It is also largely due to Bill’s efforts that we toll the Normandy Liberty Bell three times at the closing of our commemoration programs—a very inspiring and dignified way to end an event.
Quietly, behind the scenes, he worked to ensure that the Museum was doing as much as possible to honor those who sacrificed so much for our freedom. Outside of the Museum, he was one of the most vocal advocates for veterans and active-duty military in our city and country.
One of my fondest memories of Bill is from this past December when he was honored by France with the National Order of Merit for all his contributions on behalf of veterans. Wearing a beret, he accepted the award in US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center among at least 100 of his family and friends. A great tribute to a great man!
This Museum certainly would not be the success it is today without Bill. His family is in our thoughts and prayers. His memory lives on in our exhibits, our mission, and our hearts.