William Rice Obituary, Death – William Elwood Rice was at home with his family on November 27, 2022, when he received his angel wings. He was born on December 4, 1923 in Media, Pennsylvania, to the late Phostell and Ethelene Wakefield Rice. Woody attended the Delaware County Nether Providence School District. He received numerous certificates for perfect attendance as a child and was a member of the Nether Providence High School class of 1943 as well as the National Honor Society.

As a child, Woody saw National Guard planes and Navy dirigibles flying over his home in Nether Providence and wished to become a pilot. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps during his senior year of high school to pursue his dream of learning to fly. He received his basic training at Mississippi’s Keesler Army Airbase before being transferred to Tuskegee Institute for preflight training. Despite not having the two-year college requirement for admission to the program, he completed a special curriculum provided by the Institute and passed the written exam to qualify for primary flight training. He received his wings in 1944.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During WWII, Tuskegee pilots made an honorable contribution. They flew heavy bomber escort missions deep into enemy territory. After completing combat training, Woody was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy in January 1945. He flew 34 combat missions in a P51 plane. Woody was discharged as a 1st Lieutenant from the Army in 1946 and returned to Delaware County to work and raise a family. He briefly worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad before joining the Helicopter Division of the Boeing Company in 1952. He retired from Boeing in 1993 after 41 years of dedicated service.

In 2011, Woody attended his first Tuskegee Red Tail pilot reunion. The reunion, held in Orlando, Florida, marked the 66th anniversary of the Mission to Berlin. Tuskegee Airmen escorted B-17 bombers over 1600 miles into Germany and back, downing three German fighter planes in a single day. For this mission, the 332nd Fighter Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation. Woody was a life member of Morton’s Collin-Chambers Post 6541 VFW and a former Quartermaster of the Morton Republican Club. He was also a member of United Auto Workers Union (UAW) Local 1069.

Woody had a large collection of Tuskegee Airmen and WWII books and memorabilia, as well as miniature models of Tuskegee pilots flying Boeing helicopters and WWII P51 planes. He was an avid flower and vegetable gardener, coin collector, scrap book collector, and Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles fan. During the summer, Woody could frequently be found on his patio listening to jazz. Timothy Greenfield- Sanders and Elvis Mitchell’s book “The Black List,” which follows the black experience in America through pictorial and verbal portraits of 25 diverse African Americans, includes a profile of Tuskegee Airman William E. Rice. Woody’s wife of 67 years, Araminta Alexander Rice, son William E. “Billy” Rice Jr., granddaughter Keisha Atkinson, two sisters, Vera Rice Frame and Dora Rice, and a brother, Thomas Rice, predeceased him.

Cheryl Rice Pride of Decatur, Georgia, Eva Atkinson Jones (husband David) of Chester, Pennsylvania, Valerie Rice Jacobs of Decatur, Georgia, Janice Rice Robinson of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Annette Rice of Glenolden, Pennsylvania are his five daughters. The only sibling is John Rice of Highland, California. Lydia Neal of Morton, PA, Elaine Everett (husband Willie) of Centerville, GA, and Bernice Rice Baker of Las Vegas; eight grandchildren: Tracey Nixon (husband Thomas), VaDear Rice, Derek Pride (wife LaTasha), Danielle Erskine (husband Rhom), Viren Ellis, Kyron Robinson, Linear Ellis, Czarina Ellis, 22 great-grandchildren, three great-great grandchildren;