William Tell Highsmith, 89, of Jesup, Georgia, died July 19. 2020, 13 days before his 90th birthday. Two weeks prior to his death, he was riding his Honda motorcycle to run errands in town. The Brantley County native moved to Jesup in 2000. His stock answer, when asked how he was doing was “Truly Wonderful,” and that nickname followed him on many of the nametags he wore during his very full life.
Mr. Bill, also known as “The Balloon Man,” was born August 1, 1930, to Isaac Edmond and Sarah Elizabeth Aldridge Highsmith. His mother had to sign for him to enlist in the Air Force as he was only 17. During his military career, his duty stations included bases in Massachusetts, Texas, California, Germany, and Mississippi. He retired from active duty in 1970, and settled his family in Irving, Texas.
Mr. Bill loved square dancing, a hobby he took up in the mid 1970s. In addition to square dancing across the continental United States, and in Australia and England, he was a member of a “Clowning Squares” group in Dallas, marching in parades and other celebrations. Clowning Squares encouraged his talent of tying balloon animals, and after his move to Jesup, he continued to entertain and delight children with balloon animals, swords and other creations. The Altamaha Wildlife Association and the Boys and Girls Club were frequent recipients of his time (and oxygen)!! The last two balloons he tied were swords for Jackson and Greyson Thomaston of Jesup.
Mr. Bill loved traveling and camping almost as much as he loved square dancing, and it didn't seem to matter if it was just down the road in Florida, or all the way west – he drove from Jesup to the Arctic Circle on a six week odyssey. Frequent travels to Bandera, Texas allowed him time with his Texas family and friends, and he managed to find a square dance any time he was in Dallas. Unity Singles was always one of his stops. He and David ventured far from home on more than one occasion. Their travels included Singapore and Bali (with a stop in Russia on the way) and Spain and Morocco. Elephant ride photo furnished on request. In February 2010, he and his children visited Central America on a week-long cruise – he and Sandra parasailed, and there was at least one photo taken as proof he actually gambled at the ship's casino (wearing a Hawaiian shirt, of course).
Mr. Bill was predeceased by his parents, Isaac E. and Elizabeth Highsmith, and his fourteen siblings; the mother of his children, Saralee Highsmith Howard, and his son-in-law, Dr. Ross Goehring. He is survived by his daughter, Susan Goehring, of Jesup, daughter Sandra and son-in-law Donald Barley of Brady, Texas, son David Highsmith of Dallas, Texas, granddaughter Jordan Barley (Robert Lilljedahl) of Houston, Texas, and grandson William Trent Barley of Brady, Texas.
Burial will be private when appropriate for out of town family members to attend. Memorials to either Fair Haven Protective Agency or Boys and Girls Club of the Altamaha Area, or the donor's choice of charities, will be appreciated.
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