Willis Tate, Sr.
George Willis Tate, retired US Army Colonel, passed away recently at his home surrounded by his family in Pensacola, FL. Tate, the fifth great grandson of George Washington's sister, Betty, was recognized as the closest living relative of George Washington when asked to represent America's founding father at the 1987 Bicentennial of the US constitution. He was fiercely proud of his local roots also, and as the fourth great-grandson of George Barkley, he played an instrumental role in the preservation of the historic Barkley House in Pensacola.
Colonel Tate, artist, prolific author and amateur historian was a true Renaissance man. He was an intrepid explorer spending his retirement years travelling the world both alone and with his wife, Kit Hearn Tate. They always preferred to become part of the community immersing themselves deeply into each culture.
He was an outdoors man, inspired by nature to paint with over 60 pieces of original works to his credit. (His collection, "The Shorebirds of Perdido", along with his published books the Barkley House Vignettes and Twice A Princess can be found at Artworks Gallery at the Villagio on Perdido Key.) An accomplished sailor and member of the Pensacola Yacht Club, his life was spent sailing the Hawaiian Islands, Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys among other places. Also, an avid diver, fisherman and spear fisherman, his love for fishing continued on many excursions in Hawaii and kayak fishing on his beloved Grande Lagoon became a favorite past time in his later years. He shared a passion for the Arts with his wife and they were active members of the Pensacola Opera Guild. Colonel Tate, graduated High School from Marion Institute in Mobile, AL, went on to undergraduate studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, and received his master's degree summa cum laude from Penn State. Always questing for more knowledge, he continued his studies at George Washington University Law School, Stanford University, and Northwestern University. He was a graduate of both the US Army's Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS and the prestigious US Army War College, Carlisle, PA. He proudly served his country during two combat tours in Vietnam. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, and three Meritorious Service Medals. Following extensive genealogical research, he was inducted into the following organizations: Sons of the American Revolution, charter member of the US National Constitution Center, Army War College Foundation, the US Army Museum Foundation, the George Washington Foundation, Order of the Crown of Charlemagne, Magna Charta Dames and Barons, and Descendants of Knights of the Garter and the Order of St. George.
His zest for life was evident to all who knew him; this self-proclaimed "life hog" will be sorely missed by those he left behind.
Colonel Tate is survived by his beloved wife, Kit Hearn Tate, a Pensacola native and graduate of PHS, as well as three children from a previous marriage, Diane Tate Franciosa, Cathy Tate Riseley, and George Willis Tate, Jr. He had five grandchildren, Paul and Sarah Franciosa, Dustin Tate, Lewis Willis Tate, and Emily Claire Schindler Tate.
Colonel Tate and his family request in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Covenant Hospice of Pensacola, 5041 North Ninth Avenue, Pensacola, FL 32504, who so tenderly cared for them this past six months.
Funeral service will be 11:00 a.m., Friday, November 8, 2013 at Christ Episcopal Church, 18 West Wright Street, Pensacola, FL 32501 with Reverend Neal Goldsborough officiating. Burial will follow at Barrancas National Cemetery.
FAITH CHAPEL FUNERAL HOME SOUTH, 100 Beverly Parkway, Pensacola, FL is in charge of arrangements. You may express your condolences online at www.fcfhs.com.
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Published in Pensacola News Journal on Nov. 6, 2013