Eight Air Force Academy superintendents beckoned him. Countless reporters sought him.
But each time someone called Will Ketterson, his response was the same. Answering in a made-for-TV voice, Ketterson spoke simply of an unwavering passion.
“His heart was at the academy,” said Betty Ketterson, his widow. “He absolutely loved the academy.”
Will Ketterson — the man whose name became synonymous with the Air Force Academy during some of its most formative years — will be remembered Saturday during memorial service in the city he called home for nearly a half-century. He worked in the academy public affairs office for 23 years, retiring as chief of media relations.
Suffering from repeated health ailments in retirement, Ketterson died on Dec. 10 at a hospice center in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 81.
An anchor and news director at KRDO for five years, his face was known to thousands. And when he moved to the other side of the camera lens, Ketterson seemed to find a calling.
“The voice of Will Ketterson was a voice you did not forget,” said Phil Caine, a retired brigadier general who served at the academy as deputy commandant of cadets for military instruction.
He became the go-to person for reporters when the academy welcomed its first class of female cadets — as well as when journalists inquired about nearly two dozen graduations and a few cheating and sex scandals.
The inclusion of female cadets in 1974 proved to be his most memorable moment at the academy, he told the Gazette in 1995 after retiring from the academy. It was a national media circus — requiring answers on everything from reaction by male cadets to the type of haircut the women cadets would receive (figure skater Dorothy Hamill’s locks won the day).
In retirement, he continued that passion — volunteering with the Friends of the Air Force Academy Library.
There were tough times, those last 17 years. His only son, Paul Ketterson, died in 2006. Will Ketterson’s health also seemed to grow increasingly tenuous.
But there were moments that still bring a smile and ensuing chuckle to his wife.
The two met in a small Presbyterian church outside of Albany, N.Y. — their relationship blossoming over youth group meetings and holding strong into retirement, when they traveled across the United States.
On April 13, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
“He was a good friend, he was a good father, a good grandfather and a good husband,” Betty Ketterson said.
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