William R. Powell ’61

William R. Powell of Horseheads, NY passed away suddenly of natural causes on January 30, 2023 at the age of 79. Bill was born to Wilkins R. and Anna Powell on October 23, 1943 in Mount Holley, NJ and raised in Worcester, MA.
After graduating from Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, MA, Bill spent an additional academic year of study in England prior to enrolling at Brown University. While earning his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering there, he also nurtured his love of the outdoors by hiking and camping across New England. He took that passion to new heights on the West Coast while working towards his PhD (awarded in 1971) in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Stanford University. After that, Bill spent a year as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Zurich.
Living on the West Coast at a very interesting time in history, Bill developed a passion for ’60s Rock that he kept throughout his life. He saw many of the greats at the Fillmore West, and had a memorable day at the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival in December, 1969 where he saw Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, among others. A true Deadhead, he also saw the Grateful Dead many times. He regretted never having seen Janis Joplin perform live, but he did get to see Ozzy.
In 1972, Dr. Powell joined the Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics faculty of West Virginia University. It was in Morgantown, WV that Bill met the love of his life, Barbara Ann Nelson. They married in 1977 and Bill embraced his new role as a father to Barbara’s son Brandon Wayne Sodomick. The birth of their son Jef in 1979 completed their family of four. In 1981, Bill joined Corning Incorporated and the family to moved to Big Flats, NY. Bill played a variety of roles at Corning, officially retiring as a Senior Engineering Associate in 2002 but continuing his relationship with the company as an Engineering Consultant until 2017. In addition to authoring almost 100 publications both within and outside of Corning Incorporated, Bill was the holder of 11 U.S. patents.
As accomplished as Bill was in his career, he was a humble man who believed that his contributions to the community were equally as valuable as to his profession. He was an Elder in Big Flats Presbyterian Church, a member and past president of the Big Flats Lions Club, and a volunteer for and board member of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. With a group of other retired citizens, he applied his engineering skills and built accessibility ramps for homes. He spent hours every summer basting chicken on the grates for the Lions Club’s chicken barbecues, collected donated eyeglasses for the Club, and otherwise extended a hand to help others in his community where needed.
Bill and Barbara also found time to travel throughout the USA and the larger world. Their travel experiences included many destinations in Europe, Russia, Egypt, and a most memorable East African safari.
Bill is predeceased by his parents, Wilkins R. and Anna Powell, brother-in-law Joe Beard, and in-laws Dora and Ralph Nelson. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, sons Brandon and Jef, sisters Nancy Hatfield and Marjorie Powell, brother Richard Powell (Kathy), sisters-in-law Gayle Nelson (Tom Schmid), and Connie Nelson Elder (John), and many nieces and nephews.
There will be calling hours Saturday, February 11th 10:30 – 12:00 at the Big Flats Presbyterian Church, 95 Main Street, followed by a memorial service at noon. A luncheon will be served after the service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier (388 Upper Oakwood Avenue, Elmira, NY 14903), Big Flats Presbyterian Church (P.O. 454, Big Flats, NY 14814), or any charity of your choice.

One thought on “William R. Powell ’61”

  1. I have only fond memories of Bill as dorm mate and friend. He was quiet and was a very intense student. His nickname was Leewop, Powell spelled backwards. He graduated top of our class.
    I remember that Bill needed a date for the senior prom. The theme was “ an evening with Charles Addams”. My sister Ann Adelmann Perkins traveled from Upper Montclair,NJ. to do the honors. My current girlfriend (date) was down with mononucleosis so my sister invited her friend (and co-captain of cheerleading/twirlers) Drucilla (Dru) Delate to be my date.
    Ann always remembered a nice blind date weekend. Ann died of Alzheimer’s dementia two years ago leaving two highly successful children and five grandchildren.

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