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William Lee Korn

November 5, 1955 ~ July 4, 2022 (age 66)

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Obituary

William Lee Korn, better known as Bill to everyone, passed this July 4, 2022, at the age of 66 after complications from an infection. 

Bill was born November 5, 1955, in Duncan, Oklahoma, to Melvin and Margaret Korn, but he lived most of his childhood and adolescence in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, and Estes Park, Colorado.  He attended Tonkawa Schools graduating high school in 1974.  After Graduation he attended Northern Oklahoma College of Tonkawa where he earned his associate’s degree in laboratory science.  Both of Bill’s parents worked at Northern Oklahoma College as a professor and librarian after retiring from the K-12 public school system.  In the summer Bill’s dad worked as a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Bill had many happy memories playing and exploring RMNP with his mom, dad, and sisters.  One significant experience for Bill was hiking Long’s Peak with his dad.  Decades later, he still mentioned how early they had to get up to start that hike.

Estes Park was also the location of some of Bill’s earliest jobs that would populate his colorful resume.  As a young teen, one of his summer jobs was as a grocery store bagger at the Circle Super – where he claimed he learned to “lie” saying things like, “Y’all are from Texas, too?” to increase his odds of getting a tip.  When he was fourteen, Bill worked one summer as a “pearl diver” – a dishwasher at a fancy restaurant.  Another summer, he was a “G-Man” – a garbage collector for Parker’s Landfill – a job that taught him the value of fully bagging diapers when one of his colleagues had an unfortunate incident when the compactor met a loose dirty diaper and SQUISH!  The colleague spent the rest of the shift wearing a fragrant coating of baby poo.

After graduating from Northern Oklahoma College, he got a job as a “grease monkey” working on the project to build Sooner Lake.  It was on this job that Bill survived a train wreck.  He was riding with his crewmate and awoke in time to shout, “Stretch! Train!”  Stretch, the nickname of his crewmate, couldn’t decide to go or stop, and driving a 2.5 ton tank loaded with oil, coolant, and a little gasoline was not an easy vehicle to do either of those options with.  Stretch hit the brakes, and the truck stopped about 12’ from the front of Amtrak train, which traveling at 95mph was able to rip everything from the windshield forward off their truck.  It took the train a mile to stop.  Both Bill and Stretch walked away without a scratch.

Bill lived almost all his adult years in Perry, Oklahoma.  Bill joined Ditch Witch, where he would spend most of his career.  His first job at Ditch Witch was chipping weld slag.  After that, he worked as a tool machinist.  He spent many years in IT as a programmer, where his focus was to make working with the programs easier for the plant team.  Bill worked at Ditch Witch from 1977 to 2009 after 32 years with the company.  Bill “retired,” but this only started another string of colorful job descriptions.  After 2009, Bill described himself as a “drug runner” – delivering pharmacy orders to home-bound patients, an “ash runner” – working for a funeral home, and as a “Gladys Kravitz” – researching (snooping, his word) land ownership history  and obtaining his abstractor’s license. 

In 2014, Bill returned to Ditch Witch as a materials planner in the weld shop and has worked there since.  His goal was to retire properly from Ditch Witch. 

Bill’s fun spirit was not only present at work but also at home with friends and family.  Bill was a thrill-seeker and would be the one who would go “again” on the rollercoasters with his children.  That thrill-seeking streak was apparent when he went car shopping with his dad all around Northern Oklahoma and Kansas as a new teenage driver.  The first car that he wanted was a Camaro – a 375 horsepower hot rod.  His dad immediately said no.  They found a second Camaro, rumored to be very mild, but when Bill started the engine, he could tell it had been modified but said nothing.  They left with the car, but two days later Bill’s dad returned the car after doing some research.  A third car was a Plymouth Roadrunner.  They got the car but then learned it had a history of drag racing in Enid.  It also went back.  They finally settled on a 1972 Chevy Nova with about 100 horsepower.  It was a three-speed stick, but fortunately, Bill knew how to drive after one driving lesson in the church parking lot from his older sister, Joann.  Bill made lots of cosmetic modifications to the car – shag carpeting, 8-track player, speakers – but the engine kept him safely out of trouble.  That was not the case with his motorcycle, which did end up costing extra in speeding tickets. 

One might have thought that Bill’s thrill-seeking streak would have waned as he aged, but at 53, when his youngest child wanted to go skydiving to celebrate turning 21, he agreed to go.  He may have regretted that decision while getting suited up, on take-off, and when the plane doors opened, but after arriving safely on the ground, he wanted to go back up and jump again.

He was active in high school playing sports and participating in clubs.  He told a story that in the A/V club, he once helped himself into the school office and took control of the PA system to play Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” to the school.  Bill’s sense of fun and easy-going attitude made him well-liked.  He wound up voted “Most Handsome” in his senior class of 1974. 

Bill’s life was blessed with many loving family members and friends throughout.  Bill was a fiercely loyal friend to many he worked with and knew in Tonkawa and Perry. 

His family and friends remember Bill as kind and quick-witted – always ready with a clever joke or in many cases with his children, a “dad” joke.  When his children would boast about how strong they were, he would reply, “But smell’s not everything, kid.”  When one child’s friend said he looked like Dennis Quaid, Bill responded, “Too bad I act like Randy [Quaid]!”

It was at Ditch Witch that Bill met Kim after a friend asked Kim what she wanted for her birthday, and Kim replied, “A date with Bill Korn.”  The two married in 1982, just recently celebrating their 40th anniversary.  Together they had two children.  Bill was most proud of kids.  He was a devoted father.  He attended every dance recital, softball game, Taekwondo competition, band performance, piano recital, and tennis match.  He was very proud that his children continued the Senior Class honors as both of his children were selected “Most Likely to Succeed” in their senior years.  Both of his children went on to earn advanced degrees – his oldest earning a master’s in education administration currently working as a school district administrator, and his youngest currently completing a residency internship at Cornell University after recently graduating as valedictorian of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois this past May.

Bill also loved being “PopKorn” to his two grandchildren.  PopKorn’s house and visits were always highlights for both Bill and his grandkids alike.  Bill’s love of Tonka trucks and matchbox cars as a kid was something he shared with them each time they were together.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Melvin and Margaret Korn, and several of his dearest friends.  Bill is survived by his wife of 40 years, Kim Korn, two children, Dr. Rachel Korn who lives in Ithaca, New York, and Lindsay Butler who lives in Colleyville, Texas, with her husband, Jason, and their two children, Bill’s grandchildren, Theodore William, 5, and Kate, 2.  He is also survived by his two sisters, Janet McCarter who lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Louis, and Joann Black, who lives in Oklahoma City with her husband, J, as well as many nieces, nephews, and in-laws who love him and many more friends who consider him family.

If you would like to honor Bill’s life and memory, please consider donating to Perry Education Foundation 900 Fir Street, Perry, Ok 73077, supporting a teacher, a sports program, an arts program, as Bill was grateful for the impact that education had for his family and his children, or donating to your local animal shelter as Bill and his family loved their dogs and cats. In Perry, Fur on Fir 1704 Fir St, Perry, OK 73077.  Floral orders may be sent to Brown-Dugger Funeral Home of Perry.

The family will be announcing future memorial plans at a later date.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William Lee Korn, please visit our floral store.

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