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War hero, Realtor Castillo made his mark
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Bill Castillo - photo by Photo Contributed

Family patriarch, World War II Silver Star recipient, Realtor and a friend to everyone he met, Bill Castillo has died from complications after suffering a fall. Bill was a longtime friend of mine as well, knowing him for some 40 years.

In his role as a dad, he always worried about his sons and daughters as well as his wife, making sure they were all taken care of in their separate lives. It should go without saying Bill Castillo was a man among men. He continually made a difference in the lives of many in our community from his real estate profession to those in his everyday life.

Not only did he have a strong love for his large family but also his church and his country. He served in the Army and was sent to the German front in World War II, where he was seriously injured in one of the final battles of the conflict in the north. Bill had served as a machine gunner refusing to give up his post despite the advancing enemy and was hit by incoming self-propelled artillery bursts and small arms fire in the snow covered wooded fields. He was eventually sent back to the states and spent months in hospitals. He carried some of the scars with him for the rest of his life – he walked with a noticeable limp.

Unaware of just what the future held for Bill, I visited him several times last week after learning he was in the hospital. He was the old Bill, up and spirited in his bed and glad to see I had dropped by his room for those short visits. Smiling ear-to-ear, he always had a story to tell those who gathered around him – making others feel 10-feet tall.

The day before he died I walked into his room, where several of his children collected at the foot of his bed. Appearing to be asleep, his one daughter said if I touched his hand he would respond. He hadn’t had his hearing aids in his ears and could hear little. When I touched his left hand his eyes popped open and he welcomed me with the roar of his familiar voice. Bill was so very full of life the last time I saw him on Friday. It’s a day I won’t soon forget.

The ultimate excitement for him in recent years was being included in the Honor Flight Northern California to Washington, D.C. for veterans of World War II to visit their memorial. This past Memorial Day he was appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor by French Consul General Romain Serman in San Francisco’s Presidio ceremonies. That, too, was for his courage and selfless acts in World War II that benefitted France.

Bill had spent many years selling real estate in Manteca, putting many families into their new homes and making more friends in the process. A kind and genuine individual, I for one will miss seeing Bill walk through the front door of the Manteca Bulletin to place an ad in the paper, waving to me at my desk. While his hearing had faded even with his hearing aids, his handshake was always as strong as ever, even from his hospital bed.

He is just one more of the many fine Manteca old-timers who continue to live in spirit in our minds and hearts. There have been those who were natural resources for guidance who I think of day in and day out – no longer just a phone call away.

Bill Castillo, I sincerely salute your spirit, your memory.