Bill Jorden


- March 19, 1929 - February 25, 2019 -


Bruce William (Bill) Jorden, Jr. loved his family and his country, and made it his life's mission to protect them both. Bill was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas on March 19, 1929 and died in Tucson, Arizona on February 25, 2019. He moved 13 times, attending nine schools during his childhood as his father sought new opportunities during depression and war.

Before he was old enough to drive he had earned his ham radio license, his pilot's license and was working to help support his family. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1951, and was commissioned as a first lieutenant at Fort Sill. In early 1953, while stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, he met Marjorie Zabriskie on a blind date and married her three months later before shipping off to serve as a radar specialist in the Korean War.

After coming home he studied electrical engineering at the University of Missouri, then landed a job at Hughes Aircraft Company in Tucson. He and Marj moved there in 1956 for what they thought would be a short stint, but they both loved the desert and Bill rose through the ranks at Hughes, eventually becoming Hughes Program Manager for the TOW missile. They stayed for the rest of their nearly 66 years together.

As they built their life in Tucson, Bill and Marj had three children: Bruce, Steve and Jill. All three started fishing and camping before they learned to walk, and the family spent most weekends at a lake or river, usually in Arizona's White Mountains, and eventually at their wilderness cabin at Green's Peak Hideaway. Wherever he was, Bill stayed in touch with the world via ham radio.

After Bill retired from Hughes he started a second career at B. W. Jorden & Co., Inc. He won several Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants to invent cheaper, easier solutions to problems like measuring dust particles in the air, and detecting drift of over-sprayed pesticides and herbicides from crop-dusting. He and Marj also traveled the country in their motor home, visiting their childhood homes and spending time with friends and family. Eventually Bill returned to the defense industry as a consultant for the National Missile Defense Program, tasked with ensuring defense contractors were using federal dollars efficiently and effectively.

For the last ten years he was a member of the COLSA Independent Assessment Team, whose leader Thomas Devanney summed up Bill perfectly: "Always the conscience. Always advising to do the right thing technically. Never settle for half measures. Bill had immeasurable impact on the defense of our nation." For his contributions to national defense Bill received a commendation from the U.S Missile Defense Agency and was inducted into the Ft. Sill Artillery Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

Bill was not openly affectionate, but he would help anyone he thought needed a hand. Upon moving into assisted living he led an uprising that cleared the way for larger bonuses for the care giving staff. In recent years he endured a litany of health challenges, even entering and then 'graduating' from hospice in late 2017. The challenges taught him patience and gratitude.

He gave grandson Quinn, 11, lessons in how to use a jigsaw in recent months as the two bonded over a shared love for math and power tools. Never one to sit quietly, Bill would color and draw for hours with granddaughter Yi Yi, 3. Bill is survived by Marj; son Bruce and wife Pamela of Tucson; son Steve and wife Marie of Show Low, AZ; daughter Jill, husband Tom and grandkids Quinn and Yi Yi of Tucson; brother Roger and wife Joan of Boulder, Colorado; sister Susan of Tucson; niece Julie Weliever and husband Dave of Indianapolis; nephew Jimmy Zabriske and wife Marcy Scott of Las Cruses, N.M.; niece Libby Farr and husband Bud of Indianapolis; niece Cherlynne Rogers and husband Jamie of San Francisco; and nephew Shawn Gregore of Tucson.