Early in the Fall 1987 soccer season, Billy Dey suffered an injury that sidelined him from practice. Clearly pained that he wasn’t playing, he put on his running shoes and told coach Steve Collis he was going for a run. Six miles later, he limped back into practice with a swollen ankle and that crooked smile of his. No one was surprised: “Iron Bill Dey” was the toughest son of a gun any of us had ever met.
Billy was one of the best all-around Peddie athletes of his era. While not the captain, he was the heart and soul of the soccer squad, earning the Evans Hicks Soccer Trophy awarded to “the outstanding member of the soccer team.” He was a gritty defensive force for the hockey team as well, and an accomplished golfer.
Close friend Sean Dailey ’88 reflected, “It is interesting that Billy gravitated to ‘defense.’ By his very nature he didn’t need to score goals or get the glory.” And Stuart Greif ’90 admired his hockey teammate’s compassion as much as his athletic ability, remembering how talking with Billy comforted him when he was going through “tough times” after a game. “He really made a big difference in my personal and athletic life.”
Billy went on to become one of the top soccer defenders at the United States Naval Academy, while further developing his leadership skills to defend his country. He completed aviator training and flew combat missions in Kosovo and the Persian Gulf. A straight-talking, highly respected pilot, Billy was known as “Dewar” [Do Or] Dey. “He was a voice of sanity among us,” recalls fellow airman James Skarbek. “If someone came up with an idea, the guy you wanted to convince was Dewar. If Dewar thought it was stupid, you’d better look for another idea.”
After the Kosovo War, Bill was selected for the Navy’s prestigious Tomcat F-14 demonstration team. Tragically, he was killed in an air-show accident just a year later, on the first Fathers Day he was to have celebrated with his wife, Deb, and their baby daughter, Kamryn. In his final moments, according to Navy Commander Scott Miller, “Bill is credited with saving the lives of a playground full of children.”
To honor Billy’s legacy, the Naval Academy created the Lt. William J. Dey Leadership Award. It is presented to “that first class midshipman of the Naval Academy Men’s Varsity Soccer Team who during the course of four years exhibits the leadership qualities of determination and persistence against insurmountable odds, character beyond reproach, desire for success and unparalleled initiative in order to lead his teammates both on and off the field.”
Committed to educating young men and women so they can have a disproportionately positive impact on their communities, Peddie is especially proud to induct Billy Dey into the Peddie Sports Hall of Fame.