William James McCallister, Sr.

William James McCallister, Sr.

April 5, 1935 – November 8, 2019

Bill passed away peacefully at his home. He is survived by his wife, Bernadette, children, Kathleen McCallister (Mike McGee), Maureen Kinchen (Carl); Bill McCallister, Jr., and brother Bob McCallister. He is by grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

William (Bill) McCallister was the sixth child born to Mary Hines McCallister and Benjamin Franklin McCallister on April 5th, of 1935 in Fairfield, Iowa.

Bill was just a year old when he lost his father to pneumonia.

His widowed mother Mary worked hard to support Bill and five older siblings. She worked many jobs to support her family; Bill’s older siblings also went to work and school to keep the family of seven moving forward.

In 1948, Bill and his mother moved to Ames, Iowa.

In 1953, Bill graduated from Ames Iowa High School and then attended Iowa State University to pursue a degree in Education and Industrial Arts, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1957.

There were many stories Bill shared about working during college as a business lettering painter; Bill used his perfect lettering ability to paint the names of businesses backwards on the doors of local businesses and hand painted billboards.

In June of this year, Bill celebrated 60 years of marriage to his beloved wife Berni after having met and proposed to her within a week of their accidental meeting in March of 1958. They were married on D-Day in 1959. After their honeymoon trip across the Western states and California, they returned to Omaha where Bill returned to work at the Omaha Public Schools teaching drafting at South High School.

In March of 1960, their firstborn daughter, Kathleen made her appearance during a 17-inch snowfall which required borrowing tire chains from a friend to help him drive to the hospital through the deep snow in his beloved 1956 Thunderbird convertible!

In May of 1961, their second born daughter, Maureen arrived. In September 1963 their youngest child and only son, William J. McCallister, Jr. arrived.

Bill was committed to working hard to support his family, and in 1963 they moved to their lifelong home on South 48th Street where they lived until his death. In those early days, he designed and built the furniture they needed to fill the home…at his core he was an artist looking for an outlet to create, and the furniture was just one of many of his contemporary creations.

Bill worked as a teacher, at Omaha South High School for 17 years and was beloved by many students. He also taught students how to read technical blueprints in night school at Omaha Tech High School.

Between working and raising the family, Bill performed extra work in securities, drawing artistic renderings of custom homes for local architects, and worked to complete his master’s degree from University of Nebraska at Omaha in Education Administration. He did this to further advance his career and taught at the University.

Bill’s education helped him to receive a much-valued promotion to the Supervisor of Industrial Arts for the Omaha Public Schools; Bill oversaw all junior and senior high school shop programs and teachers. He worked hard to support teachers with meaningful help which allowed them to smoothly perform their jobs in each school, while delivering the very best education to their students.

During his life Bill was a forerunner in introducing new inventions, discoveries and technology into the Omaha schools Industrial Arts Program he supervised for nearly 20 years culminating a 35-year career in the Omaha Public Schools. Some of his advanced ideas included enrolling girls in traditionally boys only shop programs in 1973, bringing solar power concepts into the hands of teachers in 1978, introducing Computer Assisted Drafting and other new concepts to help students receive the very best education.

Bill established the now common concept of public-private partnerships when he created an enduring relationship between the Omaha Public Schools and the Metro Omaha Builders Association to provide opportunities to advance excellence in architecture and the building trades.

As a father, he was always supportive of his children from the time they were young; being the good teacher he was, he always taught them how to do things and challenged them to do more on their own. This led to three independent thinkers who have all taken on the world in their own realms of interest and talent.

His children all remember Dad’s unique spin on things including the cart that he built and towed behind riding lawn mower, making life fun for them!

As a teen, Kathleen remembers her Dad teaching her to rebuild a carburetor, on the kitchen table as part of helping her do auto body restoration and other needed repairs while restoring her 1966 Mustang convertible.

Bill inspired a love for classic Mustangs and Thunderbirds which he shared with the entire family!

Maureen has fond memories of her Dad learning along with her when she attended College of St. Mary while studying computer assisted graphic design; the two of them sharing their talent and love of all things artistic and created many unique pieces. His encouragement helped her achieve her goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

As a pre-teen, Maureen has fond memories of drawing and sketching cartoons with her Dad, and later in life while attending College of St. Mary, learning computer graphic design, Bill worked alongside her to become expert in new art technology. He encouraged her as she achieved her goal of acquiring her Bachelor of Arts degree. She also loved and shared in his lifelong sense of humor.

Bill Jr. has special memories of sharing time with his Dad exploring and seeking out learning throughout his life, but one memory of Bill Jr’s. is of the time he built a ramp on the sidewalk to ride his bicycle on so he could “jump” his banana seat bike. While riding his bike, Dad came home and saw the ramp and decided to give it a try on his Honda motorcycle, follow his son’s fun and he jumped the ramp too! What a laugh they had!

All three children remember playing long games of chess with their Dad and rejoicing when he challenged their newfound skills which allowed them to learn and have fun at the same time!

All who knew Bill remember that he had a constant sense of humor that was witty, dry and often smattered with orneriness. His family remembers the many times that he would pick up a newspaper at the end of the day, and read an article out loud that was true in the beginning and the way, he would interject a sentence or two of alternative facts to make the article increasingly his own creation which was always just enough believable that you spellbound by what he was reading until the very end when he would expose the story with some outlandish detail that let you know you’d been had! These readings always making everyone groan or laugh!

Bill was ever the optimist lending a helping hand to friends and neighbors helping where he could and forever finding ways save money by using his creative solutions to address his or their home improvement or auto repair needs.

There was one building project among many in his lifetime, in 1975 he undertook one of his bigger projects when he cut the body off a 1970 Ford Econoline van. The remaining engine and floor began the project which was his own design-build of a custom motor home he created from scratch. He used inexpensive materials creatively to keep the unit light and agile; the RV slept six! He used fiberglass to complete the exterior and to achieve this one-of-a-kind unique dream. The family enjoyed many happy trips to far off places in this motor home!

During his life, Bill partnered with a friend to advance a unique invention that that provided internal shock absorber system within a tire hub rather than as part of the frame as was the mode of the day. He was always looking at common things in different and new ways.

G-O-L-F…need anyone say more?

Bill loved golf, and in his lifetime held bragging rights to two holes in one! He thoroughly enjoyed chasing the ball around the course with his friends and colleagues; in retirement he played three times a week including all winter long when the weather allowed!

Later in his life, Bill increasingly understood his need to better understand his faith. Thanks to a divine moment which God orchestrated, Bill met and became friends with Pastor Herb and Shirley Walker in Dallas, Texas, a neighbor of his daughter and son-in-law. It was through their shared prayer on the lawn of this neighbor, Bill began a true search for an intimate relationship with Lord. Bill, always the learner, studied and sought out the truth of God’s word and knew Jesus as his very personal Savior. Bill would read a morning devotional entitled, Jesus Calling and read his Bible; he also enjoyed encouraging spiritual programs on television.

In his later years, Bill was famous for prayers at dinnertime when he would always remember to pray for the troops who were in harm’s way and for all who served to protect us.

His life was one filled with glorious and sad moments as all lives are, but may it be said as many have in recent days, that he was a good and kind man.

His family is grateful that he is now enjoying life with his Savior for all eternity, not because of his good works on earth, but because Jesus is who He said He is.

Jesus Christ is the light and life of all mankind, He is the Alpha and Omega, He is the Beginning and the End whose love and mercies never end. Jesus meant what He said, when he stated, in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Bill knew that Jesus is the only way.

Bill was also very clear, that while good works reflected his love for God, they were NOT the basis for his salvation. He deeply believed, Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

We thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying so that Bill and all who call upon Your name may be saved!

Family will receive friends Friday, November 15th from 5pm to 7pm, at the West Center Chapel.  MEMORIAL SERVICE: Saturday, November 16th, 1pm, the West Center Chapel.  Memorials will be directed by the family.



  • Vic Larson Posted November 12, 2019 3:59 pm

    So sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. We’re thinking of Bernie, Kathy, Moreen and Bill. Will be attending the visitation and services.

  • Joani Rogers Posted November 14, 2019 4:15 pm

    Send my prayers and hugs to my very loved friends, Kathy and Mike and their children, and to the extended family. Pray that your hearts will be comforted and refreshed as you remember your dad and grandpa. Special hug and prayer to Berni, that the Lord will comfort your heart at this time and each step forward.

  • Angela Snaples Posted November 15, 2019 10:35 am

    Bill and Bernie became my adoptive grandparents over the last 7 years. I’ll never forget his big smile as he came into the clinic and his funny comments. Every time he left…”have a good day and a better one tomorrow.” Now he’s having a beautiful day every day with our Lord Jesus Christ as he watches over everyone. Bernie, I love you and admire your strength and faith. The two of you will forever be in my heart. We love you Bill!

  • Chris Johnson Posted November 16, 2019 8:59 am

    Wished we could come, but Nov. 15th was our anniversary and we already had plans. Again I wish we were there .
    With our love ! Chris and Carol Johnson

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