William A. “Bill” Bonsall, 91, of Morgantown, passed away Saturday, February 21, 2015
posted on 03/02/2015

Bill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 31, 1923, the last of six children to Elsa Grace Abplanalp and Frank Paine Bonsall. Bill graduated from Penn State University in 1949 where he was a member of the 1948 National Champion Gymnastics team and was captain of the 1949 team. In both 1948 and 1949 he won the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) silver medal as an All-round Champion in gymnastics. Bill was also the 1946 AAU National Champion for the flying rings and was the 1948 National Champion for long horse vaulting. He was a member of the 1948 U. S. Olympic Team in London, England.

During his university experience, Bill enlisted in the army and participated in the D-Day invasion with the 9th Infantry Division. After 82 days in near continuous combat, he was captured by German forces in Dinant, Belgium, and spent his 21st birthday in a prisoner of war camp on the border of Poland and Germany. On January 31, 1945, Bill escaped from Germany as Russians advanced. Bill and eleven other Americans hiked into Poland, made their way to Odessa, USSR, and then to Naples, Italy, where they were shipped back to the United States. Bill was awarded the Bronze Medal for his service.

Bill married Jean G. McCurdy on September 14, 1946, and moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, to begin teaching Physical Education and coaching gymnastics at West Virginia University. Bill earned a Master’s Degree from WVU in 1950. Their children are Barbara Ellen who is married to Stuart B. Wood of Burke, Virginia. Dr. Barbara Wood is the Biology Department Chair at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Their two children are Douglas Stuart and Leslie Michelle. Janet Paige is married to Denton D. Humphrey of Warrensburg, Missouri. Dr. Janet Bonsall-Humphrey is a Professor Emerita of Photography at the University of Central Missouri. Their two children are Derek Morgan and Sarah Caitlin. Paul Donald Bonsall is married to Diane Darcy. Paul is a registered architect with ADW Architects in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their three children are Lindsey Elaine, Michael Reid, and Natalie Caryn.

In 1979, Bill and Jean started a postcard company: Paige Creations. They traveled through West Virginia selling photographs with the goal of showing the beauty of West Virginia. Bill has twice been the State Commander of the W.V. Chapter of Former POWs, and he directed its first convention at Jackson’s Mill. Bill was also a multi-decade long member of Rotary International. He is the founder of the Mountain State’s Special Olympics program for handicapped children.

Bill, who was twice Southern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League Coach of the Year, was also accepted into the WVU School of Physical Education Hall of Fame, U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame, West Virginia Sports Writers Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, and the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. Bill was elevated to Professor Emeritus at WVU in 1980.

Bill was a charter resident of the Village at Heritage Point where he enjoyed many activities and a pleasant lifestyle in his later years.

The family would like to express grateful appreciation to special people at the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Science, the federal Veterans Administration, the Barbed Wire Mountaineer Chapter #1 of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, and the residents of the Village at Heritage Point for their support, friendship, and many kindnesses over the years.

Interment of cremains will be held at a later date at Arlington Cemetery in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

A reception remembrance of Bill will be held at the Village at Heritage Point on Saturday, March 14, 2015, between 2 and 4 p.m.
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