William "Bill" GRONINGER

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RET. LT. COL. WILLIAM G. "BILL" GRONINGER (This photo was submitted by Bill's wife Lynn who says that this was one of her favorite photos of Bill.)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 5/16/12 - Image Year: 2008

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Bill Groninger was the younger of two sons of Benjamin Edward and Marian (Van Ormer) Groninger. He lived much of his youth in Old Port (Turbett Township), Juniata Co., PA. Bill was born April 13, 1941 and died September 2, 2011.

He attended Freedom Elementary School and Tuscarora Valley High School where he participated in soccer, basketball, and baseball. He also played the trumpet in band and he was his classes President for all four years. He attended college at Shippensburg University, graduating in 1963 with a BS in Education (math and science). While there he played and coached soccer and was again the class President in both his junior and senior years. Later Bill would earn his Masters of Science in Educational Psychology at Troy State University. In addition Bill has a Doctor of Divinity degree, he has a black belt in karate, and has a commercial pilot license.

By Matt Primak

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bill Groninger is living proof that big dreams can have roots in a small town. Groninger spoke about his life experiences to a crowd of Boy Scouts, community leaders and the family and friends of R. Ann Kanagy, who was given the Good Scout Award by the Shawnee District, during a dinner on Wednesday, May 26 at the Moose Family Center in Lewistown.

He said that it was through his early schooling and his time in the Boy Scouts that he "learned big things about values, faith-based relationships, and how to interact with both kids and adults."

Groninger eventually went to college, and after graduating in 1963 decided to join the Air Force, starting out as a missile launch officer. He then entered flight navigator training, and did service in Vietnam in 1967, flying over 100 missions.

After being accepted for and successfully completing pilot training, Groninger became an instructor. "I got tired of teaching after a while, so I tried to apply for a different job," he said. It was this change that led to his participation in a historic program.

"I asked, 'How about this thing called SR71 Gioninger said, referring to the Blackbird reconnaissance plane. The plane, built by Lockheed and designed by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, was mainly used for taking photos, but was known for its ability to fly at three times the speed of sound and at an altitude of 85,000 feet.

The process of choosing a pilot for the supersonic plane was very selective, Groninger said, noting that only one pilot was chosen a year to man the aircraft, along with a navigator.

"You had to wear a full, complete pressure suit," he said, explaining that the pressure in the suit had to be maintained in order to prevent the blood from boiling because of the lack of oxygen.

The plane's speed exceeds that of a round fired from a 30.06, and its two engines have more thrust than 43 train engines. "So it is truly faster than a speeding bullet and a racing locomotive," he joked, referring to the familiar "Superman" description

During Groninger's flights, the SR-71 completed a trip from New York to London in one hour and 56 minutes, and a San Francisco to New York trip in 66 minutes, putting the plane's speed at about 2,196 miles per hour, or a mile every two seconds.

Groninger noted that the plane mainly flew reconnaissance missions that involved taking detailed pictures from high altitudes. "If you dropped a dime on the ground, I could tell you [from the pictures] if it was heads or tails up," he said.

With the high-speed marvel came a few conditions, one of which was the constant leakage of fuel from the plane's seams because the sealant used would not work until the plane got up to a certain altitude. Groninger explained that neither he nor the ground crew had to worry about the leaking fuel causing a fire or explosion, because of the fuel's "high" ignition temperature.

Also, because of the effect of the speed and the heat involved, the plane would actually expand about four inches more than its original size, Groninger said.

The process of refueling was not always easy, he said, as the SR-71 would have to creep up behind a refueling plane and receive it in mid-air.

The SR-71 and its missions also came at a large cost, which ultimately caused the discontinuation of operation or the 33 SR-71s that were built. Groninger noted that in 1975, the average cost of operation per hour was a million dollars. Use of the SR-71 was eventually phased out in 1991.

The majority of reconnaissance missions are now handled by remote-controlled drones or planes similar to the U-2, Groninger said, but he still regards the SR-71 as "a masterpiece of engineering."

His experience with the SR-71 program taught him a number of things, one of which was the importance of teamwork. He believes that it was the work of the engineers and ground crew that made his job easier. "I used to pull on the stick and make the houses smaller," he said, "but the guys who really did the work really kept us alive."

The experience also provides an example to those who are trying to realize their dreams. "I like to tell this, because here's a kid from Pennsylvania, from a one-room schoolhouse, who was able to take part in this kind of thing. I was very pleased and very honored to fly this kind of an airplane.

"[Plying the SR-71] was probably the most fun, complicated work experience in my life," Groninger said. 'Tenacity can get a whole lot of things in your lifetime."

He believes that dreams are possible to fulfill in America, but that freedom has a cost. Those dreams can be realized, and that freedom can be appreciated, if the nation maintains its sense of values. "I'd like to see a future in this country.

We're in a different world, a different time. We can't live like we have in the past."

The value system-love of God and love of country can be taught to youngsters through parental guidance and vehicles like the Boy Scouts, where Groninger believes he gained his appreciation of freedom and patriotism.

"I'm delighted to be here because of this value system," he said. The need to keep these concepts alive is one of the reasons that he is helping to start the National Center for Patriotic Studies near his home in Branson, MO. "It is critically important to teach youth these values," he said.

Retired from the Air Force since 1983. Groninger was the executive director of the Branson Veterans Task Force and he and his wife Lynn operated a RV Park in Branson. Bill has two children from previous marriages, a daughter, Christina, who lives in Philadelphia, PA and a son, Gene, who resides in Sacramento, CA. (2011)

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Contributed by rkohler3 on 10/10/11 - Image Year: 2000
Bill Groninger in Florida
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/11/10 - Image Year: 1942
Bill Groninger is being held by his neighbor Mrs Ruth ( Bergstresser) Zendt. (Eventually Ruth will become one of Bill's teachers at Freedom Elementary School in Turbett Township.).
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/11/10 - Image Year: 1944
Brothers Bill Groninger and Ben Groninger and Ray Kohler in their Easter finest in the William Ard yard at Old Port (Approx. 1944)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 8/28/11 - Image Year: 1947
Bob Bardell, Ray Kohler and Bill Groninger in the Ard yard in Old Port, 1947.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 1/9/11 - Image Year: 1947
This picture was taken at the Freedom School (Turbett Township) Christmas Play in 1947. Some of the students are named. Although she is not in the picture, Ruth Bergstresser Zendt was the teacher. (BILL GRONINGER can be seen between Frances Kepner and John Moyer.)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/24/12 - Image Year: 1951
1951 JUNIATA COUNTY LITTLE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS Front Row (L - R): Bob Dowling, N. Blair Taylor, Bill Groninger, Wib Taylor, Jack Henderson, Wayne Taylor, Denny Foltz, Jim Dowling; Middle Row: Gary Dunn, Ernie Foltz, Jim Taylor, Leon Kepner, Bob Crimmel, Warren Dowling, Don Fike, Skip Kepner, Ron Gerhart; Back Row: Coaches: Wendell "Ace" Henderson and Melvin Crimmel
Contributed by rkohler3 on 4/6/17 - Image Year: 1952
BROTHER'S WEDDING: Benny and Shirley's wedding on June 7, 1952. (Pictured l-r): Edith Lequea (Shirley's mother), Shirley, Benny, Bill (Benny's Brother), Marian, and Ben Groninger, (Benny's Parents)(Photo submitted by Randy Groninger)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/27/12 - Image Year: 1953
Shirley (daughter-in-law) and sons Benny and Bill with Ben and Marian at the back door in Old Port (1953).
Contributed by randy on 9/12/14 - Image Year: 1956
Bill Groninger - High School photo. Actual year unknown. Found in the Old Port home - September 2014
Contributed by rkohler3 on 2/9/11 - Image Year: 1959
Bill Groninger as he appeared in his 1959 TVHS Yearbook photo.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 2/4/11 - Image Year: 1959
1959 TVHS CLASS: (seated l-r) Helen Kilmer, Judy Kephart, Bill Groninger, Shirley Hockenberrey, Harold Shearer, Ethel Stouffer, Doris Horning; (standing l-r) Raymond Gray, Sandra Hockenberry, Alice Harbst, Ron Pennebaker, Betty Wharton, Marian Bookwalter, Jim Wert
Contributed by rkohler3 on 3/15/17 - Image Year: 1962
PARTYING AT SHIPPENSBURG STATE: Bill Groninger and a friend at Shippensburg State in 1962. (Photo submitted by Randy Groninger)
Contributed by ray on 2/24/17 - Image Year: 1963
BROTHERS: Bill (l) and Benny (r) at Ben's home in Bel Air, Maryland in 1963. (Photo submitted by Randy Groninger)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/27/12 - Image Year: 1980
BROTHERS: Ben and Bill Groninger with Bobby Hertzler at Ben and Marian's 50th wedding anniversary celebration at the Lions Club in Port Royal.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/27/12 - Image Year: 2011
BROTHERS: Benny and Bill Groninger at Bill's home in Branson, Missouri.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 3/30/11 - Image Year: 2000
Bill Groninger (c) participates in a SR-71 Forum at Virginia Aviation Museum October 14-15, 2000.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 3/30/11 - Image Year: 2000
Bill Groninger (second from left) participates in a SR-71 Forum at Virginia Aviation Museum October 14-15, 2000. Go to the following web address for a brief overview of the Blackbird: http://www.wimp.com/lockheedblackbird/
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/11/10 - Image Year: 2005
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Groninger speaking at the Shawnee District Good Scout Award ceremony on May 26 about values and freedom,
Contributed by rkohler3 on 10/10/11 - Image Year: 2000
Bill in his Air Force Uniform
Contributed by ray on 10/10/11 - Image Year: 2000
Bill and Lynn: wedding on the beach at the Caymans.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/21/10 - Image Year: 2007
Bill and Lynn Groninger owners and operators of Shenanigans RV Park in Branson, Missouri.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 9/1/11 - Image Year: 2009
LtCol Bill Groninger and his wife Lynn - Bill was the Executive Director of the Branson Veterans Task Force.
Contributed by jglennel on 9/4/11 - Image Year: 2009
Bill and his second love, Lynn's mom Buckie. (Photo submitted by Nellie (Landis) Sorensen.)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/27/12 - Image Year: 2009
BROTHERS: Bill and Benny at the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. (Photo submitted by Benny's son Randy Groninger)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/25/11 - Image Year: 2011
Special recognition ceremony for Bill at the Dick Clark Theatre (July 4, 2011). He was the first recipient of the Bretts for Vets Award in Branson, Missouri.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/25/11 - Image Year: 2011
Bill and Lynn Groninger at special recognition ceremony for Bill at the Dick Clark Theatre in Branson in July 2011.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 4/24/11 - Image Year: 2011
Glenn and Nellie (Landis) Sorensen with Bill Groninger in Branson, Missouri at Bill's 70th Birthday celebration, April 2011.

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