LONG BEACH — Willis H. (Bill) Bross died peacefully of natural causes on March 7, 2017 at the age of 102.
Bill was born in Rainier, Oregon on January 23, 1915. He graduated from Rainier High School in the early years of the Great Depression. As a boy in Rainier he remembered seeing one of the last working Tall Ships to sail the Columbia River. As a young man he took a job with Pacific Power and Light introducing electrification to households throughout the Lower Columbia River region. On the side, since he was an accomplished ballroom dancer, he became a promoter and manager of dance bands throughout the region. During this time, he met and married his first wife, Norma Houghton, a schoolteacher at Rainier and Mossyrock High Schools. The couple moved to Vancouver where Bill continued his work with PP&L.
Bill was an avid hunter and fisherman throughout his life. He pioneered the use of seaplanes for recreational fishing and hunting in the Northwest. During his early years, he read extensively on every subject, and particularly enjoyed the history of the West. He studied and became a gourmet chef. He was a long-standing member of the Gyro Club of Vancouver.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Bill worked as a supervisor in the shipyards in Vancouver, stringing electrical wiring on newly built ships. After the war, he became a businessman, owning several businesses, including Bross Transit Advertising, and the Portland Seaplane Base. With his second wife, Blanche Osborn, a WWII WASP pilot, he established Tomahawk Vending Company and successfully converted the Alcoa Aluminum Plant cafeteria in Vancouver to an exclusively vending machine operated food service delivery system. The couple went on to own and operate Westport Crab and Oyster House in Vancouver. Bill logged many hours in the seat of a pickup truck, back and forth to the coast to bring fresh seafood to the Vancouver area.
Bill found out he loved being in the seafood business and in 1972 Bill and Blanche moved to Long Beach and purchased Cornell’s Crab Pot, which they owned and operated until 1977 when he sold the business to his son, David.
In retirement Bill and Blanche moved to Bend, Oregon and then back to Vancouver for a time. After Blanche’s death he moved back to his favorite place, the Long Beach Peninsula, when he was 92. He didn’t let age compromise his outdoor pursuits. He could often be seen tooling around town on his electric “chopper” style bicycle and could still spot a razor clam hole from a mile away. He made many new friends in the Long Beach area on his second go around and was thrilled to be able to host new and old friends and family at his 100th birthday party.
Bill was preceded in death by his mother, Eliza Jennie (Jane) Foster Bross; father, Charles T. Bross; brother, Fred F. Bross, and wife, Blanche Osborn Bross.
Bill is survived by his three children, David H. (Judi) Bross of Long Beach, Wash.; Denise K. Bross of Redding, Calif., and Charles O. (Susan) Bross of Renton, Wash.; his grandson, Aaron W. (Elizabeth) Bross of Everett, Wash., and two great-grandchildren, Kaija and Asa Bross of Portland, Ore. He is also survived by nieces, Kate (Doug) Settlemier of Mountain Home, Hawaii and Kim Cardwell of Rainier, Ore.
Bill will be interred at Neer City Cemetery near Goble, Ore. No services are planned, but friends and family may wish to honor Bill’s proud Irish heritage by toasting him on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.