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WWII flying ace, fishing advocate, outdoors expert Bill Cullerton Sr. dies



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Updated: January 14, 2013 5:59PM

The outdoors world thinks of Bill Cullerton Sr. as one of them.

He was that, and far more.

He belonged to the nation. William J. Cullerton Sr. was a World War II ace pilot who survived being captured and shot.

Mr. Cullerton, 89, died Saturday, according to his friend and associate Dan Basore.

“He had such a history,” said Basore, a world-renowned collector and fishing historian.

Mr. Cullerton made fishing lures for the W.J. Jamison Co., the company of his grandfather, “Smilin Bill” Jamison, and was a fishing guide in high school. He became a major force in the fishing and outdoors world on several fronts, notably with the Cullerton Co. in the western suburbs.

On the broader outdoors front, he hosted the “Great Outdoors” radio show on WGN-AM from 1979-1999, a Saturday tradition for tens of thousands of listeners across the Midwest.

Mr. Cullerton was inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2000, the Illinois Beach State Park and North Point Marina was renamed the Cullerton Complex. He was in the second class inducted into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2003.

Later in life, he became active for fishermen’s rights, serving the Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee in Chicago and the Illinois Conservation Foundation. His efforts led to the experimental placement of an artificial reef to enhance fishing off Chicago’s South Side in 1998.

“He was bigger than life, even though little in stature,” Basore said.

And his life was bigger than the outdoors world.

Mr. Cullerton was awarded his pilot wings on Jan. 7, 1944, according to

After being assigned to the 357th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Fighter Group in August 1944, he was credited with destroying five enemy aircraft in aerial combat and 15 aircraft on the ground, according to the Military Times. He was shot down April 4, 1945, and captured by a German “Waffen-SS officer, who shot him in the stomach and left him for dead,” the news site reported. He was found by American forces, hospitalized and returned home.

Funeral details were pending.

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