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 William S. “Bill” Ayre

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William S. “Bill” Ayre

  • Birth 12 Apr 1913 Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Death 25 Nov 2008 Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Burial Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Memorial ID 31775835

William Ayre departed this life peacefully November 25, 2008.

Mr. Ayre was the youngest of nine children born to Mary Summerson Ayre and John George Ayre, a coal miner.

Known as Bill, he attended Wyoming Seminary Preparatory School, in Kingston, PA, excelling at academics, sports and music, notably classical violin, and graduated in 1932. Economic conditions of the time precluded further schooling and he began his working career as an electrician apprentice at the Wilkes-Barre Lace Mill.

There he met and fell in love with the fetching and spirited Mary Elizabeth Cannon. They eloped and were married on May 17, 1938, by the groom's uncle, a Methodist pastor. This marriage endured for nearly seventy years, a loving union ending only with the death of Mary on January 30, 2007.

Mary and Bill moved to York in 1940 where he took employment at what would later become known as the Naval Ordnance Plant, a U.S. Navy Installation where armaments were manufactured and tested. There he rose to the level of Chief of Electrical Operations and was the youngest man to hold such responsibilities at the Installation.

On a Sunday in 1946, Mary and Bill took an afternoon drive to Gettysburg, were smitten by the place, and the next day signed an agreement to purchase the Rose Garden Cottages and Tea Room, located two miles south of town along the Emmitsburg Road. Joined for a time by his brothers Tom, Wes and their wives, Bill and Mary here began their lives in the Gettysburg business community.

Over the next twenty years, they built, owned and operated the Colton Motel, on Steinwehr Avenue, the Criterion Motor Lodge, on Carlisle Street, the National Soldier's Museum on Baltimore Street and the Holiday Inn of Gettysburg, also on Baltimore Street. With partners, Bill also opened, owned and operated the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge of Gettysburg, Gettysburg Battlefield Tours and the Gettysburg Tour Center. Outside Gettysburg, projects included Valley Forge Tours and Historic Annapolis Tours, the latter being the first tour company permitted to bring regular bus groups onto the grounds of the United States Naval Academy.

He was a consummate entrepreneur, dedicated to ideas and fearless in his endeavors to move forward constantly and always make good things happen. His largest and grandest project, U.S. Heritageland, a 300-acre hotel/golf course/convention and museum complex planned for development along U.S. Route 30 east of Gettysburg and begun in the early 1970's, did not come to fruition. It consumed more than ten years of his life, but not a moment of his good nature or unfailing optimism.

Bill never smoked but nonetheless lost his vocal cords to throat cancer in 1990. Undaunted, he spent the next 18 years moving forward without a trace of complaint or self-pity. With the aid of an artificial speech valve and the incomparable skill and support of everyone associated with Johns Hopkins Hospital, he lived these years to the fullest and with great joy.

He had a life-long love of music (Rhapsody in Blue), dogs (most recently, his devoted Dalmatian, "Patch"), horses, Christmas, children, ideas, puns, Syracuse University, cantaloupe, corn-on-the-cob, iced tea, a few good friends, and the St. Lawrence River.

Bill was a loving husband, father and friend whose gifts of confidence and support to his family and friends were constant, unerring and limitless.

He is survived by his daughter, Molly Ayre, his son, Wes Ayre, both of Gettysburg, and a number of nieces and nephews.

Preceded in death by his wife, all of his brothers and sisters and countless good friends from more than nine decades of life, his ship has now arrived on the far shore. A glorious reunion and grand celebration has there begun.

Family Members






  • Created by: Just another taphophile
  • Added: 28 Nov 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 31775835
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William S. “Bill” Ayre (12 Apr 1913–25 Nov 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 31775835, citing Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Just another taphophile (contributor 46513469) .