Obituary: William Bernard Busier, 1918-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: William Bernard Busier, 1918-2023 

Survivor of German POW camp continued to serve fellow veterans throughout his life

Published June 2, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated June 2, 2023 at 2:26 p.m.

click to enlarge Bill Busier - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Bill Busier

With profound sadness, we announce the peaceful passing of William "Bill" Busier, 46 days after his 105th birthday. As he wished, death came at home in the arms of his loving daughter, Holly-Lynn.

Born in the family farmhouse in Shelburne on March 8, 1918, Bill was accustomed to a life of hard work. In addition to working on the family farm, at an early age he became a handyman on the Webb estate, specializing in the care of horses. Life, however, was not all hard work due to his love of reading and baseball, at which he excelled.

With the coming of the Depression, circumstances caused Bill to leave school after the eighth grade. Although by law Bill was too young to enter the Civilian Conservation Corps, the recruiter made an exception, knowing he was a skilled worker. With the threat of global war looming, Bill enlisted in the 172nd Infantry Regiment of the Vermont National Guard in February 1941, and following Pearl Harbor, his unit was federalized.

Serving as a medic, Bill shipped out in September 1942 to the South Pacific on the USS President Coolidge. As the troop ship entered the harbor of Espiritu Santo on October 26, 1942, it struck two U.S. mines. Bunker oil ignited, burning soldiers and sailors, who rushed to abandon ship. Maintaining his post, Cpl. Busier assisted his comrades in leaving the badly listing ship. For his heroism, Bill was awarded the Soldier’s Medal.

Returning to the United States for infantry training, Bill Busier, now a staff sergeant, was assigned to the 423rd Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division. After arriving in Europe, his unit deployed in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest on December 10, 1944. Six days later, German forces launched the assault known as the Battle of the Bulge. After three days of fighting, encircled and out of food and ammunition, Bill’s regiment was ordered to surrender. As he later recalled, “Breaking down my M1 and scattering the pieces was the bitterest moment of my life.”

Marched for four days in biting cold and driving snow, many of the POWs, including Bill, suffered frostbite. Finally reaching a railway terminal, they were packed into cattle cars and transported to Stalag IX-A, Ziegenhain, in the German Rhineland. Conditions in the camp were deplorable, with little to eat or drink, but during that time SSgt. Busier worked to keep his men together as a military unit, despite incurring a bout of malaria and suffering from severe malnutrition. Following liberation, which came on May 4, 1945, the Army awarded him the Bronze Star in recognition of his valor.

Returning to the United States, Bill was discharged in July 1945. Like so many veterans, Bill was uncertain of his future. A friend who worked at Sealtest Ice Cream on South Union Street in Burlington offered him a position, which Bill gratefully accepted. It was life-changing. His training at Sealtest, coupled with courses taken through the G.I. Bill, allowed him to become an expert in refrigeration and air conditioning.

Employment and training were not the only benefits of working at Sealtest. Bill, already a connoisseur of ice cream, soon discovered that a young woman from Jericho, Marjorie June Garrow, loved strawberry ice cream. Bill and Marge initially met on a blind double date at the Black Cat in Burlington when a service buddy was dating her sister. The strawberry ice cream worked. They married on September 11, 1948. Eight years later, their daughter, whom Bill named Holly-Lynn, entered the world.

Seeking always to improve and excel, Bill was not content with remaining an employee. In 1960, he struck out for himself and established Busier’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service in Essex Junction. The business flourished from the beginning due to Marge’s administrative abilities, Bill’s technical expertise and their reputation for integrity, all of which earned the company a top Better Business Bureau rating. Personal contacts and fortune also played a role. Soon after he left Sealtest, the company shut down its maintenance department. Bill was a known and appreciated quantity among Sealtest’s many customers, who now gravitated toward him and enthusiastically recommended him for myriad jobs. Additionally, his active memberships in organizations such as the Elks Club substantially increased the volume of business. Among his many important contracts was installing all the refrigeration and air conditioning units at the University Medical Center.

Always aware of having to leave school at an early age, Bill was an avid reader throughout his life and an advocate for his daughter’s education. Two of his proudest moments were when Burlington High School awarded him a diploma for a lifetime of self-education and when Holly-Lynn earned her doctoral degree at the University of Vermont. Bill always lamented that he never became a high school teacher of history, a subject he passionately loved. Recognizing this, several professors of history at UVM befriended him and frequently gifted him with books, which he devoured. The question Bill constantly asked later in life was, “I wonder how many books I have read?” The answer: thousands upon thousands.

At the height of his business success, Bill found time to serve as president of the local chapter of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society. Following his selling of the business in 1970, he assumed the position of manager of refrigeration and air conditioning at Vermont Heating and Ventilating, bringing his customers with him. At VHV, Bill continued to be active in the field, teaching courses required for licensure through RSES and implementing apprenticeship training. He also became more engaged in organizations for former POWs at the local and national levels, serving as the second president of the Vermont Chapter #1 Ex-Prisoners of War. Additionally, he was a proud member of the Golden Lion, an association of former members of the 106th Infantry Division, and attended reunions for survivors of the Battle of the Bulge, where his comrades always greeted him as “Sarge.”

Sarge never forgot the rifle he left behind in the Ardennes. For his 104th birthday, Bill’s nephew, Brian, presented him with an M1 Garand. They talked about taking it out in the near future and firing off a few clips. Tragically, that never happened.

After retiring from VHV at age 70, Bill and Marge became avid travelers. Purchasing a small home in Daytona Beach, Fla., they spent their winters there. As passionate Red Sox fans, they attended spring training baseball games, played golf, swam, took walks and explored the state. Additionally, they purchased an RV and traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada. Europe also beckoned.

Back in Vermont, Bill and Marge’s love of the lake led them to purchase a summer cottage in Grand Isle, from which they boated, fished and enjoyed the sunsets. Bill also found pleasure in annual deer camp with his friends — more of a social event than a hunting expedition, and made famous by his much-enjoyed moose stew. Whatever the season, Bill enjoyed the outdoors. His activities included picking seasonal berries, hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and finding and bringing home from the forest the perfect family Christmas tree. In addition, Bill loved animals. Family pets included dogs, cats and a great horned owl, “Hooty,” whom he saved.

Retirement also included service to others. He devoted substantial amounts of his time to Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In that work, he was particularly adept in assisting veterans to apply for and receive their full benefits. Bill’s commitment to fellow veterans was a continuing passion to the end.

During the last few months of his life, Bill’s mobility decreased, but he did not feel sorry for himself. As he said, “It is time to reflect and reminisce, and I’ve had a wonderful life.”

Marjorie predeceased Bill on March 5, 2021, and his beloved nephew, Brian Lee Busier, passed in December 2022 after a heroic struggle with multiple myeloma. Brian was like a son, as was also Mark Joseph Lemay, who grieves him deeply. Paula Beauvais-Haar, whose father was on the President Coolidge with Bill, has been a lifelong friend and admirer and joins in that grief. Left behind in profound sorrow is his daughter, Holly-Lynn.

A memorial service will be held on June 24, 11 a.m., in the Ira Allen Chapel on the campus of the University of Vermont. In lieu of flowers, Bill requested that donations be made to Essex Rescue and/or Saint Michael’s College Fire and Rescue. And his daughter asks that, in memory of her father, you perform an act of kindness.

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