William Joseph Demetree Dies at 80

William Joseph Demetree

William (Bill) Joseph Demetree, 80, passed away on Dec. 30, at his daughter and son-in-law’s home in Tampa, Fla. He was born on Oct. 10, 1943, and died on Dec. 30, 2023.

He was predeceased by his parents: Joseph (NMN) Demetree and Betty Phelps Demetree; his sister, Sara Lynn Demetree; his widow, Elizabeth (Libby) Huger Dixon; and his longtime canine friend, Eduardo.

Bill is survived by his sister, Susan Demetree Lively; wife, Miledy Ovalles; daughters: Fraser Benzal (Stuart Benzal) and Banks Yatsula (Richard Yatsula); honorary daughters: Alkione (Candy) Giovan and Suzanne Giovan; and grandchildren: Grace Benzal, Christopher Yatsula, Anne Marie Yatsula and Christian Yatsula.

Born in Jacksonville, Fla., Bill’s family relocated to Pensacola where he attended grade, middle and high school. Bill attended the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) where he joined the Kappa Alpha fraternal order and earned a degree in civil engineering. After college, he attended Officer Candidate School and joined the U.S. Army as a 1st lieutenant to serve in Vietnam as a green beret in the special forces. Bill was injured in combat but not before earning multiple medals: National Defense Service Medal, Sharpshooter Badge, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Parachutist Badge, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and Purple Heart.

During his college summer breaks, Bill worked construction on St. Thomas as a laborer at the longstanding Windward Passage Hotel. Thus, his summers on St. Thomas began his lifelong love of the island, which would become his home for over 50 years. Bill would say, “I moved to St. Thomas the very same day I was discharged from the Army,” and he dedicated his life’s work to the betterment and preservation of his beloved island. His contributions to the infrastructure of St. Thomas include the old Cinema One, Antilles School, Bordeaux Housing Project, UVI Housing buildings, Nazareth School, Bovoni Apartments, Chase Manhattan Bank, Sugar Estate Post Office, Frenchtown Post Office, Chinnery Building, Little Switzerland, Estate Anna’s Retreat, Emerald Beach Hotel and The Reichold Center for the Arts.

Bill’s dedication to doing things the right way and with integrity never faltered. He served his cherished island with a sense of propriety that is worthy of admiration and respect. He never failed to help those in need and would have given the shirt off his back to do for others, and always without accepting credit for his good deeds. He was a force to be reckoned with, for sure, but in the end, he consistently acted with valor and humility, always serving others before himself.

A burial service with Military Honors will be held for him at The Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla. at 11 a.m., Feb. 23.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to My Brother’s Workshop where at-risk youth are given the opportunity to receive vocational training and one day become positive members of the St. Thomas community, the same community that Bill Demetree dedicated his life to enriching and preserving.