Joseph Lilly was born on July 12, 1962 , the third child of Frank
and Billie Lilly (now Maness).
From the beginning, he was special. His mother
called him her "gift from God." His great grandmother
called him "little preacher man" because his eyes were
always looking up to the heavens. His sister called him "Bebo"
in her baby voice.
William spent his childhood dreaming about becoming
an astronaut. He read science fiction and grew up watching as
the United States sent men into space and to the moon. He drew
pictures of airplanes and spaceships. He wanted to go to the moon
His love of space and flying caused him to join
the U.S. Air Force at age 16. There he became a respected flight
line mechanic. By age 17 William was chief of his own line crew.
Later he tried out for the astronaut corps. He qualified in every
way, except physically. This was a great disappointment to William,
but he kept his remarkable sense of humor and his desire to travel
into space never diminished.
William didn't marry. He always said with a chuckle
that the right girl hadn't found him yet. He told his mother,
"The girl who finds me will want to fly to the moon with
William was an explorer. He loved to climb Earth's
mountains and travel her waterways. Once he and some friends rode
innertubes in rapids, and William turned over. His friends were
afraid they lost him in the foaming water, but he emerged unhurt
William was a best friend to many, a great son,
brother and uncle. He was a good man, a righteous man, who didn't
compromise his principles. In April 1996, his life was taken away
from him, and he was taken away from those who love him. Now Bebo
is where he always wanted to be -- in the heavens bove the disappointments
and sorrows of Earth. But he would tell us not to be sad, that
there is a greater future ahead for all of us, and that we should
look forward with our hopes and dreams. For William knew that
there is so much of life and God's love to be explored, on Earth
and in space.
He will wipe away every tear from their
eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning
nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed