William L. "Bill" Montague, 95, of Havana, FL passed away on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 after a short illness. Bill was born in Ripley, TN on October 7, 1920. He was the third child of Larimore and Leila Bettis Montague. He is survived by his wife of 68 years the former Sarah Katharine Blaylock and his four children: Dianne Croley (Doug), James L. "Jimmy" Montague, Linda Montague (David), and Claudia Montague (Jeff). He is survived by six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by one brother Van Bettis Montague of Franklin, TN. He was preceded in death by his mother, father, and two sisters, Elise Clark and Ruth Wadsworth.
Bill was raised by his widowed mother and grandmother in Ripley, TN. While in high school, he had a newspaper route and one of his customers had a chick hatchery in his basement. Even at this early age, he thought he would be interested in poultry science as a career. He attended Union University for a year on a football scholarship until the war dried up the supply of football players. After leaving the university, he worked in an Agriculture Lab in Memphis, TN and at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO.
In 1943, he joined the Navy where he was assigned to the USS Mellete as a landing craft engineer. He was one of a crew of three on a Higgins boat LCVP landing craft. This landing craft could carry 36 armed men or 12 men and a jeep. It was called the "boat that won the war." Bill was at the battle of Iwo Jima and saw the American flag being raised on Mount Suribachi. He was also on the lead boat of the first wave of occupying troops going into Tokyo Bay. His landing craft delivered Rear Admiral Kelly Turner to the battleship USS Missouri for the peace signing between the Allied forces and the Empire of Japan.
After leaving the Navy in 1945, he attended the University of Missouri on the GI Bill for a year of poultry courses, and after completing his course work, he took a job as a hatchery manager in Jackson, MS. In 1947, he married Sarah Katharine Blaylock. Their first three children were born in Jackson from 1949 to 1955. In 1957, he accepted a job offer with Babcock Poultry Farm in Ithaca, NY. His job was to sign up franchises to hatch the Babcock breed of layer chicken. In 1958, he had been trying to locate a franchise in the Florida-Georgia-Alabama area and he decided to take this opportunity to move back south and open the franchise himself. In 1958, he moved his family to Quincy, Florida and founded Gulf Coast Hatchery. His companies, Gulf Coast Hatchery and Double M Farms became one of the largest employers in Gadsden County and could hatch and ship up to 180,000 pullet chicks per week. In the 1970’s he opened a vaccine lab which produced a vaccine for Marek’s disease in chickens which was invented by Dr. William Woodward of Quincy. This vaccine was sold in Florida until it received Federal approval a few years later.
In 1969, when his two oldest children were already in college, Bill and Katharine welcomed their fourth child into the family. This was their special surprise baby, Claudia. She was a great joy to him and the entire family.
The hatchery was closed in 1988 and after his retirement, Bill continued to run his cattle farm for many years. He also enjoyed good times with his family at the beach house at Mexico Beach. He adopted the FSU Seminoles as his team "back when you could drive right up to the gate," and his 50 yard line tickets are still in the family today. His greatest joy in his later years was watching his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow and thrive.
The funeral service will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church in Quincy, Florida where he had been a member since 1958. The service will be Monday, December 21, 2015 at 11:00 AM. The family will receive visitors before the service from 10:00 to 11:00 in the church parlor. There will be a private internment later at the Nicholson-Freeman Cemetery near Havana, Florida. Faith Funeral Home in Havana is in charge of arrangements (850-539-4300 or www.faithfuneralhome.com )
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Centenary United Methodist Church, 206 N. Madison St., Quincy, FL 32351 or Big Bend Hospice, 1723 Mahan Center Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32308.