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Epilogue | William Mack Waterfield

Army, and tough love, marked the Colonel

TAMPA — William Mack Waterfield had nicknames such as Boots and Bill, but he was mostly known as the Colonel.

Mr. Waterfield, 90, of Valrico, died Aug. 3, having never fully recovered from pneumonia six months earlier.

He was born Sept. 1, 1918, near Norfolk, Va, the oldest of seven children. While still in high school, Mr. Waterfield ran away and joined the Coast Guard. When officers found out he was only 16, they sent him home.

After landing back in high school, the tall, broad-shouldered Mr. Waterfield became a star football player. He attended Temple University on an athletic scholarship. He loved to read, with the Bible being his favorite book.

In 1941, Mr. Waterfield dropped out of school and joined the Army. While riding a troop transport train to San Diego, he met Mary Louise Dougherty, a Navy nurse. She immediately told her girlfriend, "This is the guy I am going to marry," their son, Rick Waterfield, recalled. They tied the knot somewhere near San Diego, then he went off to fight in World War II.

Mr. Waterfield quickly climbed the ranks, becoming a colonel by the time the United States was fighting in Vietnam.

He and Mary Louise had two sons, Bill and Rick. Rick joined the Army right after high school, but his father held up his orders for Vietnam until Rick was 21, when the Colonel had no say.

"He was in so many wars, he held up my orders to protect me," his son said.

After retiring in 1976, he bought a house on the fourth hole at Buckhorn Springs Golf & Country Club. He played golf at least three times a week and served as club president for three years.

In the Colonel's home, the beds were always made. If something was out of place, he noticed. At 86, he began to slow down his work routine. He had ankle problems, partially due to his time in the Airborne service where he completed about 50 jumps.

His grandson, Kevin Waterfield, lived with Mr. Waterfield for two years after college. He considered his grandfather a second dad. Kevin never got a key to the house, and he knew not to mess with the Colonel's rules. No girls. Be in by 11 p.m. or find another place to stay. And, of course, make the bed.

In 1985, Mary Louise and the Colonel were separated when she had a stroke and was unable to care for herself. He took her in. Mr. Waterfield spent his nights caring for her until her 2001 death. She had trouble speaking and was partially paralyzed.

"He said caring for mom was his hell. Sometimes he'd have to be up with her at 2 in the morning, but he kept her happy," Rick Waterfield said.

Tuesday morning at Hillsborough Memorial Gardens, William Waterfield was laid to rest with full military honors. He was buried in his Army blues.

Arielle J. Stevenson can be reached at 813-226-3321 or


William Mack Waterfield

Born: Sept. 1, 1918

Died: Aug. 3, 2009

Survivors: sons, Bill and Rick Waterfield; brothers, Franklin and Harry Waterfield; sisters, Mildred Robinson and Ruth Simpson; five grandsons and six great-grandchildren.

Army, and tough love, marked the Colonel 08/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 11:12pm]
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