San Antonio – The widow of a veteran who died in a South Side plane crash is remembering the love of her life as a kind and gentle man. That man, Simon David Willett, 55, was killed after the plane he was riding in crash landed in someone’s backyard.
Emelie Willett, his wife, said he genuinely had a good soul.
She said he was born in Birmingham, England and moved to Hawaii when he was 6-years-old. From there, he went to school, joined the Air Force, and after seven years of service, worked for the VA for 32-plus years.
“He would drop everything to be anywhere someone needed him to be,” Emelie Willett said. “He was an amazing man. It was funny because he tried to be stern but his demeanor was always to make people laugh. He was a mentor and had so many people who admired him. He was a loving person.”
Simon Willett was a goofy character.
“He was Star Wars freak and a Sci-Fi buff and a big Dr. Who fan,” Emelie Willett said. “People just saw a light in him that they just wanted to follow... He wanted to be Vader. It was so funny. He would actually walk down the halls in hospitals with a black cape on, every so often with his suit on, just to make somebody smile.”
She said he also loved everything to do with flying.
“He had the spirit of a child,” Emelie Willett said. “Him and his best friend were into Flight Sim. There was nothing about airplanes that they did not love. They were like 12-year-old boys when they got together or got online and started playing Flight Sim. He knew everything about planes. Every type of plane you could imagine.”
Emelie said Simon was actually taking steps to get his pilot’s license when the crash happened.
“This was supposed to be a discovery flight where he wanted to see if that instructor was the right one to help him earn his pilot’s license,” Emelie Willett said. “I can’t be mad because it was his passion and that is the one thing he alway encouraged in me was to do whatever I wanted to do and loved to do and that is the one thing I would never stop him from doing.”
She said the crash was so bad, she had to provide dental records to the medical examiner so they could identify him.
“Everything was burned,” Emelie Willett said. “There was nothing there to recognize. The FAA took over the investigation and I did get a call from a couple of investigators. They gave me preliminary details but couldn’t confirm them just yet. They did tell me it was one of two things that happened. They said that the engine was having issues keeping altitude and the second could have possibly been an overweight issue. My husband’s best friend is like a 6′4 big guy and my husband wasn’t a tiny man either. I told them, by all means, I don’t want to hold anybody responsible. I would just like to know why.”
She said she was at work when she got the devastating call.
“I was at work at my early shift Saturday morning and I knew what he was getting up to do that morning,” Emelie Willett said. “I was training someone at work and I was driving when I answered the phone. I hear this officer say, ‘This is officer so and so. Is this Emelie Willett?’ I said, ‘Hold that thought. I am driving and I need to pull over.’ I had a feeling where this was going. As soon as he said there has been an accident, I knew he did not walk away from this. In my heart I already knew it. Even if I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I knew,” she said through tears.
Emelie said they told her to go to the Brooke Army Medical Center because that was where they were taking the bodies.
“In every part of my being, I thought my husband was one of those bodies,” Emelie Willett said. “I spent half the day in misery there thinking my husband was one of the men on the bed suffering, not knowing he was the one who passed away.”
After realizing her husband was gone, Emelie said she had several emotions.
“You know, you got through so many different things,” Emelie Willett said. “Anger, thankfulness because I know he would not have had a quality of life if he was suffering on a bed.”
She said his best friend, who is one of the survivors of the plane crash, is still in the hospital.
“His family has been staying in touch with me,” Emelie said. “He has been in an induced coma and on dialysis so his kidneys don’t go into shock so the rest of him can heal. Today he got his third surgery to get rid of the burned flesh. Next week, if he still holds stable, they will start doing skin grafts... If anything, my husband would gladly give his life over and over again to make sure he walks out of that hospital so he can spend the rest of his life with his family.”
Emelie, who like Simon, had failed marriages in the past, said Simon showed her what true love really was.
“You are capable of having a relationship with an individual and want to actually go home to somebody and he was my sanctuary,” Emelie said. “This place was his sanctuary and he was my sanctuary. Five and a half years of marriage and we only had one argument. We had so many plans. He was able to retire on his birthday in May. We were going to be traveling. We had our passports and he wanted me to go to Hawaii to see where grew up. He wanted me to go Birmingham, England. We had so many plans and I just thought I had more time.”
Emelie said she is ready to get back to work so she can take her mind off of this loss.
“He made life beautiful and if I don’t at least carry on, I would be doing little justice to what he gave me when he was alive,” Emelie said. “He was about the little details. Everywhere I look, he is in all the little details and he will always be.”
She is now raising money for funeral expenses. To honor him, she said she plans to have a memorial and a lantern release on the Medina Lake starting at 6 p.m.
“I plan to have him cremated and since he loved Hawaii so much, I am thinking about taking his ashes there to release them. I would just encourage everyone to enjoy your life, love who you love and don’t hold any grudges. Love with all of your heart because you never know.”