William Edward 'Bill' Haas was the eldest of three sons born to M. Lucile and Chester R. Haas. He grew up in Greenville, IL. In high school, he was editor of the school newspaper, captain of the golf team, active in student government, and voted by his classmates as 'most likely to succeed.' Bill was pursuing a degree in journalism when he was offered an appointment to West Point. On July 3, 1951, Bill entered West Point as a member of the Class of 1955. During First Class year he was the supply sergeant of his cadet company (M-1), vice president of administration for the Debate Council and Forum, and chairman of the national debate tournament. He graduated on June 7, 1955 and commissioned as a second lieutenant of Infantry.
On June 26, 1955, Bill married his high school sweetheart, Laura Mollet. Laura graduated from the University of Illinois in 1953 and accepted a teaching position in New Rochelle, NY, which enabled the couple to see each other frequently during Bill's last two years at West Point. Their union produced three daughters: Jane, born in Munich Germany (1959); Cathy, born at Fort Benning, GA (1962); and Bridget, born in Philadelphia, PA (1964).
Bill's Army career included several command assignments. As a captain he commanded First Ranger Company at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (1960) and D Troop, 7th Cavalry in Korea (1963). As a lieutenant colonel, Bill commanded the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry in Vietnam (1969) and the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry in Germany (1971). Significant staff positions (1968-69) in Vietnam included S-3 of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry and deputy G-3 of the 4th Infantry Division. In Germany (1971) he served as chief of war plans, V Corps. In preparation for serving as an associate professor of English at West Point (1965-68), Bill attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained a master's degree in English, completed the course requirements for a Ph.D., and passed the Ph.D. exam. Bill's final assignment was with the Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, VA, where he was the project manager in charge of securing accreditation and college credits by all accrediting agencies for the various Army schools and courses. Bill's awards included Paratrooper Wings, the Ranger Tab, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He retired as one of the most highly decorated combat veterans of his West Point class. His decorations included two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, three Bronze Stars for valor, the Purple Heart, five Air Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, nine various service medals, and two unit citations.
After retiring from the Army, Bill was employed as a teacher, retail manager, and construction company project manager prior to settling in the profession of office products, for which his innovative management skills were highly successful. Initially he purchased an office products company on the brink of bankruptcy. Within two years he transformed it into a financially successful business. His skills in financial management became known in the industry, and he lectured on the subject at several national conventions. Seeing the change that was coming to the industry with the advent of big box office products stores, Bill sold his business to accept the position of executive director of a fledgling buying group. Within two years, Bill expanded the membership from 32 to 187 dealers and made it one of the nation's four major buying groups, but Bill's board of directors disagreed with his vision. Bill resigned and started his own buying group. The industry experts declared Bill's venture 'dead on arrival' - a talented and innovative leader who had entered too late in the game. Within 18 months, Bill's buying group of 238 members in 36 states became the nation's fifth largest. In 1996, Bill sold the group to his three vice presidents and commenced retired life.
Retirement afforded Bill the opportunity to concentrate on a project about which he had felt passionately since 1964, developing appropriate, effective, personalized care for those with profound intellectual disabilities. Bill and Laura's third daughter, Bridget, had been born with cerebral palsy. Bill and Laura cared for Bridget at home until she was 14, when her condition dictated professional residential care. With heavy hearts, Bill and Laura placed Bridget in an Illinois institution. Bill became active in the parents group and was elected president, a position he held for nine years. When employment necessitated that the family move to Alabama in 1990, Bridget was placed in an Alabama institution. Bill became the president of that parents group too, a position that he held for 15 years. As the president of both parents groups, Bill was instrumental in securing improvements in institutional care and in preventing closure of the institutions.
In 2005, despite all his work to retain institutional care as an option, Bill realized that closure of all institutions in the near future was inevitable. He requested and was granted microboard status for Bridget (a microboard is a fully funded one-person community home that is managed by the parents or legal guardian of the person receiving services), pioneering and creating a highly successful microboard home for Bridget. That accomplished, he commenced lobbying for Alabama's recognition and promotion of the microboard option.
In 2008, Bill was diagnosed with ischemic heart disease and, in 2013, with Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, a rare blood cancer. The heart disease and Waldenstrom's were a direct result of Bill's exposure to Agent Orange during his 18 months in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Ultimately the combination of the diseases, coupled with their side effects, overcame Bill's resistance.
TAPS Memorial Article