William Vincent Kays, 87, of Drexel Hill, a retired foreign military sales expert and workers' compensation field inspector, died Friday, Jan. 27, at home of lung cancer.
Mr. Kays grew up in Massachusetts and North Philadelphia. He graduated from Roman Catholic High School in 1942.
During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radio technician. On D-Day plus six, he landed in Normandy with seven other airmen, charged with securing airfields and setting up control towers.
In August 1944, the men confiscated an airfield near Paris - a perfect location, except for the unexploded enemy shells on the runway. "Our B-17s bombed them, and they didn't go off," Mr. Kays later told the News of Delaware County.
After the German surrender, Mr. Kays and his unit were dispatched to seize a German ME-262 jet. While on the mission, they visited Hitler's mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden. "We were standing in the same place Hitler was with his mistress and all those visitors," Mr. Kays told the paper in 2007.
After his discharge, Mr. Kays attended Temple Technical Institute and then joined the Army Signal Supply Agency in Philadelphia. He eventually became chief of foreign military sales, his son Dennis said.
Mr. Kays retired from the federal government in 1976 and then spent 19 years as a field inspector for the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Bureau in Philadelphia.
Since 1948, he had been married to Clare Foley Kays. They met on a blind date.
He and his wife enjoyed travel and summer vacations with their family in Avalon, N.J. For years, they collected food and clothing for the homeless at St. John's Hospice and Mercy Hospice in Philadelphia.
Besides his wife and son, Mr. Kays is survived by a daughter, Mary Jo Webb; sons Brian and Daniel; and eight grandchildren.
A Funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 - Mr. Kays' 88th birthday - at St. Andrew the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, 3500 School Lane, Drexel Hill, Pa. 19026. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.
Donations may be made to the church or to Roman Catholic High School, Class of 1942, 301 N. Broad St., Philadelphia 19107.
Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.