In Loving Memory of Irvin W. (Bill) Hornkohl

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 W. HornkohlIrvin 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.

2 comments on “In Loving Memory of Irvin W. (Bill) Hornkohl

  1. Shawn Williams says:

    I’m not sure if any family members are monitoring this page but I had to leave a message. Bill as we called him, was stationed at the US Embassy in Prague at the same time as my late parents, Bev and Ted Williams. Of all the folks that I met there as a young eight year old, the one guy I was hoping to meet up with years later was Bill. He and Polly were great folks. I understand Polly passed away many years ago when I was still a kid. Bill was one of those guys that always had a smile. His picture in this memorial is EXACTLY how I remembered him. We lost Mom four years ago this December and lost Dad 18 months ago. I was recently going through some invites that Dad had kept. There were lots of parties for the non commissioned military officers of various countries to attend. One of those parties was hosted by Bill and Polly. There was Bill Berg from the USAG and Sgt. Jesses Miller, a big ol’ Texan with the USMC (my teacher Miss Bennett dated one of Jesse’s charges!). My eyes are filled with tears as I regret never reaching out to connect with Bill and now he is gone. But a life well lived. I hope you and Dad and Mom have met in heaven and are sharing stories of times in Prague. I miss you Dad and Mom and I miss you Bill God be with you. Rest in peace.

  2. Tim McClements says:

    I didn`t know this fine man yet I wish I had.After reading Mike Ostlund`s book Find em,Chase em,Sink em,I was in awe of the bravery and sacrifice of Senior Chief hornkohl and all the men of the U.S.S. Gudgeon. Rest in peace shipmate.