William "Bill" Willis passed away on Monday, Feb. 10, at home with his family by his side. Bill was born Aug. 10, 1936 in the Old German Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., to William Franklin and Hildegard (Haars) Willis. He grew up in Flushing, N.Y., Oakland, Calif., Detroit, Mich., and Vineland, N.J., where he was graduated from high school in 1954.
Having been reared by his working mother since the age of nine, he had no access to funds for college. Bill joined the U.S. Air Force and was trained in communications and Russian language, stationed at Chicksands AFB, England. After serving honorably, he used his G.I. bill to study at Michigan Tech and finished his degree in Engineering at Louisiana Tech where he met and married his wife, Sunny Lynch. After graduation Bill went to work for the U.S. Corps of Engineers in research at Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Bill worked for the Corps flood control projects, building dams and levees in El Paso, Las Cruces, various rivers of New Mexico; Dodge City, Kansas; and Trinidad, Colo. In 1978, he transferred to the European Division in Germany and during most of the remainder of the cold war worked on military construction throughout Europe based mainly in Nuernberg and Frankfurt, Germany. In 1991, Bill and the family returned to the USA to be stationed with the Corps office at Holloman AFB. Bill retired in 1996, worked as an independent consultant with his own company Puma Paw Consultants, then retired again.
He served one term as president of NARFE, took great pleasure working on taxes for Retired Service Volunteers Project for several years, and attended Grace Methodist Church while his health permitted. During Bill's time in Alamogordo, he sponsored two exchange students, and volunteered as a sponsor of the high school international club. He was a lifelong Democrat who worked for civil rights and school integration in the sixties in Vicksburg, Miss., and volunteered as a board member for Headstart there. He truly enjoyed working as a campaign volunteer for President Obama.
Bill, a loving husband and father, is survived by his wife of 51 years and their three daughters and families: Wendy Owens and her children Rhiannon and Nicolas; Rachael Rosillo, her husband Fernando and their son Alejandro; and Karen Willis and her son Matthew Willis-Witthar; his brother and sister-in-law Bob and Lucille Willis of Vineland, N.J., and their three daughters and families; his sister-in-law Janet Fields and her husband David from Conroe, Texas, his brother-in-law Louis Lynch and wife Becky of Tyler, Texas; and his many, nieces, nephews, and cousins, and one great-grandchild, Rafael.
Bill loved music, history, travel and photography. He was a man of compassion and honesty. He never recognized his own accomplishments as anything special though he supported many people to help them realize their dreams and ambitions. He loved well and wisely and is much loved in return. A memorial wake will be held at the family home at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations to pbs.org are requested.
Published in Alamogordo Daily News from Feb. 12 to Mar. 11, 2014