McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

April 24, 2014

Billy Joe Praytor

McALESTER — Billy Joe Praytor, 87, of McAlester, died Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at Walnut Grove Living Center, in McAlester.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Bishop Chapel of Memories with Pastor Chris Symes officiating. Burial will follow at Memory Gardens Memorial Park Cemetery. Military Honors will be performed by the U.S. Navy Honor Team and the Robert V. Thomas Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 1098.

Arrangements are under the direction of Bishop Funeral Service.

He was born in Benton, Ark. to Thelma Praytor Moore on Jan. 22, 1927.

He was raised attending the First Methodist Church of Benton, Ark., later moving his membership to the First Methodist Church, of McAlester.

In 1956, he was stationed on recruiting duty in Oklahoma City where he met and married Geraldine Twomey Praytor on April 20, 1957, in Saint Luke’s Methodist Church.

He enlisted in the U. S. Navy during World War II, in March of 1943, and after boot camp, was assigned to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif., later being assigned to the Third Marine Corps Battalion, where he served as a Hospital Corpsman in Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Bougainville.

He received many medals and citations, while in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.

After the Korean War, he entered the Submarine Service and attended Submarine Medicine School, in New London, Conn. During his career as a Submariner, he served all of his Sea Duty tours aboard Conventional, Prototype Nuclear and Nuclear Submarines.

His first assignment aboard a submarine took him to Key West, Fla. aboard the U.S.S. Thornback as the Hospital Corpsman at its home port of Charleston, S.C. and remained aboard for four years. While aboard the U.S.S. Thornback, he took part in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. 

When not at sea, his shore duty was recruiting in Oklahoma City and Little Rock, Ark.

His last tour of duty took him to Pt. Loma in San Diego, Calif. where he served aboard four more submarines.

After 25 years of service, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 1968 and pursue another career.

He brought his family to McAlester and went to work for the University of Oklahoma Research Unit that was located at the Maximum Security Prison. He worked there until 1973 Prison Riot, after which OU closed the research unit.

He was offered a position with the Department of Corrections at the Maximum Security Prison in McAlester, and achieved Health Administrator II for the D.O.C. After 25 years, he retired from his second career in 1993.

He was a member of the Oklahoma City Masonic Lodge No. 36, where he was a member for more than 50 years. It was there he was presented with a lifetime membership. He was a 32nd Mason at the McAlester Scottish Rite Temple Consistory, and in 1997, was honored alongside other brother Masons with a 50 year pin, dinner and lifetime membership. He was a member of the American Correction Association and a lifetime member of the Submarine Veterans Organization. He was proud to have served and played an active role in offices at the Old McAlester Jr. High School and several booster organizations. After retiring, he enjoyed volunteering at McAlester Regional Hospital and was selected as Outstanding Volunteer.

He was an avid OU Sooner fan and collected much memorabilia. He enjoyed woodworking and refinishing furniture.

He enjoyed all of life’s adventures, travels, careers and challenges and knew his Lord had brought and blessed him through all his lifetime. His greatest joy in this life, was being a part of the lives of his wife of over 57 years and family.

He is survived by his wife, Geraldine Twomey Praytor; daughter, Cindi Praytor Ortiz, and husband, Bo, of McAlester; grandchildren, James “Beau” Heathcock, and wife, Kathryn, of Roanoke, Texas, and their children, Jay and LJ; Sonia Sturrock, and husband, Sean, of Lantana, Texas, and their children, Lexi and Dalton; Veronica Camera, and husband, Jeff, of Westerville, Ohio, and their children, Payton, Paige and Brooke; JR Ortiz, and wife, Cindy, of Whitesboro, Texas, and their children, Claire and Cameron; Cynthia Salem, and husband, Henry, of Kingwood, Texas, and their children, Candice, Madison and Reagan; many cousins and friends.

He was preceded in death by his mother; grandparents and numerous family members.

Active Pallbearers will be Bo Ortiz, James Heathcock, J.R. Ortiz, Sean Sturrock, J.D. Giacomo, Anthony Giacomo.

Honorary Pallbearers will be Henry Salem, Bill Bigham, Danny Giacomo and Jeff Camera.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice of  McAlester, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital or to a charity of your choice.