William “Bill” James Ernst was born April 2, 1925, in East St. Louis, Illinois, to John Louis Ernst and Lorena Sophia Philippina Doran Ernst. He died June 29, 2020, at age 95 at Lenoir Woods in Columbia.
Bill served in the Army and was stationed in Korea at the tail end of World War II. When he returned to the United States, he attended MU, where he worked toward a degree in engineering.
He always said his schooling was sidetracked when he met Jewel Joanna Graue, and they were married May 15, 1949, in Mineola, Missouri. The Ernsts and another young couple, Bill and Merle Hartsfield, made plans to move to Alaska. They were so excited discussing their plans for the move that no one noticed the 50-gallon barrel of heating oil they had purchased was leaking. Now out of heating oil, they decided there wasn’t enough money for the trip.
The Ernsts’ first home was a little house on Love Street in Mexico, Missouri, where Jewel worked as a nurse and Bill worked at Montgomery Ward.
They returned for a while to the Ernst family farm, where their first son, Will, was born. Bill then worked on a farm owned by Murray Colbert where John was born, and by the time Kara came along, Bill had gone into the construction business with his father.
In 1960, he was elected as county surveyor in Montgomery County. When Bill’s father retired in 1960, he continued in construction until 1966. Together, the Ernsts developed three subdivisions in Montgomery City; Julie Court and Garden Place are two of the streets he named.
Bill was active in the Montgomery City community. Like his father before him, Bill was an Eagle Scout and also enjoyed being a Scout leader when his boys were in the Scouts. In 1966, Bill became a Sears catalog store franchisee in Montgomery City. He ran the Sears store until his “retirement” in 1984.
In 1973, the Ernsts built a home tucked in the woods in Mineola, on part of Jewel’s family farm. Bill built a shop where he ran a custom framing business, and many friends and family members have his work hanging on their walls. Bill’s retirement didn’t last long as he became a licensed Realtor and worked for Schlanker Realty in Montgomery City.
Over the years, Bill and Jewel made many trips to Ruidoso, New Mexico, where they made lifelong friends. Bill was a member of the First United Methodist-Presbyterian Church of Montgomery City and volunteered with the local Red Cross.
He grew a large garden and loved the wild birds that visited. Bill enjoyed turkey hunting, and his last deer season was in 2011 at age 86. He loved the gooey butter cake made at Joe’s Bakery in Montgomery City, and although he said he didn’t like chocolate, he always kept a stash of Snickers candy bars.
Bill is survived by three children, Will Ernst of Fulton, John Ernst (Ashley) of Harrisburg, and Kara Hillman (Paul) of Wichita Falls, Texas; grandchildren Candace Springer (Kevin) of Burke, Virginia, and Erin Hillman of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and great-grandchildren Scarlett and Colin Springer of Burke, Virginia. He will be missed greatly by his family and friends, and his cat, Molly, who was his constant companion at Lenoir.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, wife Jewel Ernst, brother John Louis Ernst Jr. and sister Flora Wilma Brown.
Due to COVID-19, there will be no funeral service. Bill’s ashes will be interred next to Jewel in the St. James Cemetery at Big Spring, Missouri.
Memorial contributions are suggested to the St. James Cemetery, Treasurer, Larry Hauser, 18 Highway K, Hermann, MO 65041. Condolences may be made to www.schlankerfuneralhome.com.