VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Willard Travis Burney, 76, Virginia Beach, Va., died Nov. 8, 2019, after a long battle with numerous health issues.
Funeral services were Nov. 16 at Charity United Methodist Church, Virginia Beach.
Interment was at the Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk, Va.
Travis, variously known as Will, Trav, and Butch, was born April 9, 1943, at Sioux City, Iowa, to Willard Wales and Virginia Travis Burney. He grew up on the family farm in northeastern Nebraska. He graduated as Valedictorian from Hartington High School in 1960, and subsequently attended the University of Nebraska for a year prior to accepting his congressional appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He graduated from the Academy with the Class of 1965, earning a B.S. in international affairs. Three days after graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, the former Arlis Ann Bottolfsen, with a full military wedding back home in Hartington. The newlyweds immediately moved to Arizona where Travis entered pilot training. His outstanding performance in flight school earned him his first choice in aircraft, the venerable F-4 Phantom II. With the Vietnam War in full swing, after completing F-4 training, the recently designated pilot was ordered to the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) operating out of Cam Rahn Bay airbase in South Vietnam. During his tour of duty in Vietnam, he accumulated nearly 350 combat flight hours in 208 combat missions. Among his numerous military decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, and twelve Air Medals.
After his service in Vietnam, Travis was assigned to three different fighter squadrons, stationed at Yokota Airbase, Japan – although he spent most of those tours manning alerts in Osan, Korea due to the heightened tensions surrounding the Pueblo Incident.
After returning stateside to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, he developed type-1 diabetes, which led to his medical retirement from the Air Force in June 1972. Starting a new career from scratch, he attended the University of Nebraska College of Law and graduated with his Juris Doctorate in December 1974. He operated a successful, independent law practice in Lincoln, for nearly three decades.
He is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Arlis; son, Will; daughter, Audrey; two grandchildren, Gunnar and Annika; and brother, James.