Irvin W. (Bill) Hornkohl passed away in Trinidad on June 26, 2016 at the age of 92.
A resident of Trinidad since 1995, Irvin was well-known in the community. If you had the good fortune to meet Irvin, you made a friend who will never be forgotten. During his long, adventure-filled life, Irvin worked on the railroad; he was a merchant seaman on the Great Lakes; he was a uranium prospector; he was an airplane mechanic, a builder, and a rancher. He ran numerous marathons, and he was a pilot.
He was most proud, though, of his thirty years of service in the U.S. Navy. Irvin was born in Denver on December 8, 1923 to Albert Hornkohl and Eva May Hughes. Even as a young boy, Irvin wanted to see the world. When he was 17 years old, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After boot camp in the summer of 1941, he was assigned to a great battleship, the USS Oklahoma. On December 7, 1941, Irvin was at Pearl Harbor. After firing at the attacking Japanese for hours, he was fortunate to have survived. Irvin volunteered to serve on American submarines. He completed eleven wartime patrols on submarines in the Pacific Theater during WWII, working his way up to be a torpedoman. He served aboard the USS Gudgeon, USS Gar, and USS Sealion II, He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroic service while rescuing Australian commandos on the island of Timor.
A few years after the war, Irvin left the Navy, but he returned in the early 1960s as a member of the Navy Seabees. He served two tours in Vietnam. He was severely wounded when he was blown off of a bridge near Phan Rang. After completing his tours in Vietnam, Irvin served at two American embassies, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, behind the Iron Curtain, and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He was in Cambodia during that country’s civil war, and was again gravely wounded while under attack by the Khmer Rouge. Irvin served out his Navy career with a variety of assignments around the world, including four years in Japan. He retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer.
Irvin was a natural story-teller. He told thrilling and captivating stories about his life’s adventures. In his 80s, Irvin decided to add “author” to his long list of accomplishments. His life stories are forever preserved in the award-winning book, Just Do It, Crazy or Not. The book’s title stands as a motto for Irvin’s life. He was an honorable, daring, and fun-loving man who will be forever missed.
He leaves behind his beloved wife Eunice, a daughter Lee Ann Rohde, grandchildren Monty and Angie Rohde, three great-grandchildren, two special nieces, Kay Long and Carol Rosa, and countless friends around the world.
After cremation, his ashes will be scattered at sea. A private memorial service will be held at a later date.