Vet's death on way to WWII memorial sobering

The death of a World War II veteran who passed away Friday while on an Honor Flights of Oregon trip to see the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., won't cause the group to retreat from future trips honoring the aging veterans.

"Unfortunately, something like this could happen more frequently because their average age is now around 90 years old," said Grants Pass resident Gail Yakopatz, president of the nonprofit group.

Although the veterans are screened for health issues and medical specialists accompany them, there is always the potential for them to fall ill, she said.

The group already has a trip scheduled for late April 2014, she noted.

"It was sad what happened," she stressed. "But the veterans came together. They were an absolute joy."

Honor Flights is a national organization that provides free trips for World War II veterans to visit the memorial completed in 2004 while they are still healthy enough to be able to see it.

William Vorisek, 88, an Army veteran from Yamhill County, collapsed on the plane just before it landed in Chicago where the group was to switch planes, she said. He was one of the youngest World War II veterans on the flight, she noted.

There were 50 World War II veterans in the group, including four from Southern Oregon. Another 50 "guardians" were on the flight to provide assistance to the veterans.

"He was accompanied by his daughter," Yakopatz said of Vorisek's daughter, Jill Dorrell. "After this happened, I left one of the nurses with her in Chicago."

The veteran was taken to a Chicago hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

"Jill passed along to our nurse that she wanted the rest of the veterans to see the memorial," said Yakopatz, the daughter of a World War II veteran who died before the memorial was built. "Jill said the trip meant so much to her dad. She wanted them to get to see it."

The weekend was dedicated to Vorisek.

"We were one of the first groups to visit the memorial since it was reopened after the shutdown," Yakopatz said. "The park rangers and volunteers were so welcoming. It was obvious they were glad to be back to work."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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