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Cheyenne native, former Mayor and WW2 veteran celebrates 96th birthday

Published: May. 30, 2021 at 10:18 PM CDT|Updated: May. 30, 2021 at 10:21 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Bill Nation has lived and been a part of the Cheyenne community for decades. He even has a street named after him. (Nationway)

“When I was born my mother must have been completely happy, because she already had 12 children already, I was number 13 so you can imagine that.”

He said he moved to Cheyenne when he was very young and even spoke about the pop stand he used to operate as kid. While he was in high school, World War 2 began. Bill answered the call and joined the U.S. Navy, serving on the U.S.S. Schroeder.

“When World War 2 started, all those of the correct age in high school, so many dropped out. Didn’t even finish high school education, so neither did I.”

When Nation came back from the war, he went right back to his passion, photography. Around this time he also met his wife Jo Ann Petersen, and started a family. Years later, after starting Nation Realty, he became interested in politics.

“My friends said well if you’re so smart why don’t you run? I thought well, I don’t talk very well, I need to know something about making speeches. So I heard about toastmasters club and I joined and I liked it.”

Nation ended up running and becoming elected to the Commission Forum twice. He then ran for Mayor of Cheyenne, and was elected twice, and was also a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives.

During his time as an elected official, he’s proud of what he helped accomplish for Laramie County. Nation was heavily involved in parks and recreation. One of his most memorable accomplishments is the name change of a state park that many in the community know.

“Curt Gowdy was here and was loved by nearly everybody and so he had a lot to do with helping develop it out there. The travel commission called the recreation commission cause we named state parks. We were in official session, I think in Douglas, he said you have a phone call. I went in, it was Frank who ran the travel agency here and Frank said, we’re meeting and we’re thinking we ought to change the name of Granite State Park in honor of Curt Gowdy, we understand you do that? I went back to the commission, I said Mr. Chairman, I want to make a notion. I move that we change the name of Granite State Park to Curt Gowdy State Park. I went back and picked up the phone and I said Frank, it is Curt Gowdy State Park at this minute.”

On Friday, May 28, Nation celebrated his 96th birthday. Saying he’s appreciated the support he’s gotten from friends and family as he’s grown older.

“I have some problems, I can’t see, I can’t hear, and I sleep a lot, but I have good friends, family and relatives, so life is good.”

The advice that Nation has for the community to hit this milestone is simple, take care of yourself.

“Try to keep a smile on your face, and a light in your heart and I think you’ll live to be 96.”

In recent years, Bill has taken to planting and looks forward to seeing his sunflowers bloom in his yard.

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