Playing the course set before him has always been one of those things he does because he sets his mind to it. Whether getting out of the sand traps or hitting straight down the fairways of life, Bill Huber’s discipline and persistence keep him on par in his senior years.
Born in Oak Cliff and raised there by his mother, 89-year-old Huber learned two things early in life: self-discipline was a key to success, and he had a good mind for numbers. In fact, it is remarkable how quickly and easily he rattles off names, dates and places as far back as his early childhood. Coming from a family of few means, Huber started working young.
“My first job was selling extras for The Dallas Morning News. I’d buy them for three cents and sell them for a nickel,” he said.
Before long, he was managing a successful paper route from 1935-1939.
“That was the best business I ever had,” he mused. “It taught me all kinds of things – salesmanship, hard work and money management.”
One of his daughters, Lakewood resident Holly Greef, said those early years affected her, too, when Huber parented her and her two siblings, Hugh and Heidi.
“He is disciplined, structured and tenacious. He expected a lot out of his kids. But he could also be tenderhearted and generous because he can remember what it was like to have so little,” she said. “He helped send one of the son’s of his insurance company’s secretaries to A&M because they couldn’t afford it otherwise.”
He worked other jobs and saved enough to start college at Texas A&M in the fall of 1939 paying $21 a month for room and board. That was also the year their football team won the national championship.
“Yeah, that was a good year to start,” he smiled as he turns the well-worn Aggie senior ring on his finger. “I liked football, but I didn’t really like college. ”
No sooner had he graduated on Jan. 22, 1943, than he reported to the Navy and Norte Dame midshipman school on February 1. He was commissioned as an ensign on May 27, 1943, and reported to the USS South Dakota.
Two memories of the war tee off first when you talk with Huber. One was when his ship left him behind as he and a few buddies were at the officer’s club (imagine his surprise,) which led to his other memory as he got reassigned to the USS Iowa that November.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was onboard and on his way to a meeting with Churchill and Stalin. Huber was on the main deck, standing just below the gun mounts when he said he heard the warning.
“Lion, Lion (Iowa’s code name)! Torpedo to starboard! Take evasive action!”
The destroyer escort had fired on the Iowa - and the president! When Iowa’s guns unloaded, Huber was lifted off the deck by the force.
“I thought, ‘I’m too young to die!’” he smiled at the memory. “But it was a mistake, that’s what it was.”
But Huber’s service in the war, like his early working years, profoundly shaped his character.
“He and mom were so patriotic. He still counts it a great honor and a lot of fun to be the Lakewood Fourth of July Grand Marshall, which he’s done for three years,” Greef said. But it was not until Huber’s kids and grandchildren took him to see the World War II Monument in Washington, D.C. two years ago that they learned more of his past.
“It was one of the most special things we ever shared together as a family. We listened to him share stories – many we had never heard before – and be greeted by total strangers thanking him for his service,” she added.
He married his high school sweetheart, Jerry Jenkins, on May 2, 1946. They had a long and happy life together. She bore them three children and gave them all names starting with “H.”
“I figured if she’s gonna have ’em, I better let her name them,” he reasoned.
Huber was a very successful insurance agent for much of his life. He co-started, then soon solely owned Huber and Scott Insurance that he founded in 1951 with the $500 bonus money from his previous job. It lasted for 50 years. During that time, Huber discovered a love of golf and pursued that passion vigorously until he was too old to play anymore. He loves the work ethic of the sport.
“If you don’t do well, you can’t blame it on anybody else. You seek your own level,” he said.
He lost his bride to Alzheimer’s on May 16, 2005. But it was her illness that linked him to C.C. Young. Once she died, he sold his house on McCommas to his daughter, Heidi, and moved there. Since then, he has remained active and engaged in his community. He walks a mile every day with his favorite walking partner, Patsy Stanford, and has served as treasurer of the Asbury building resident’s group.
“And he’s a terrible flirt,” chides one of the several female residents he calls his “sweetie pies.”