Jackson DeCamp Willis was born in Philadelphia in 1923, eldest of three brothers born to Stanley and Gladys (DeCamp) Willis, and died in Bellingham on July 25, 2014. Jack graduated from Abington (PA) High School in 1941, was a standout baseball player like his father and grandfather, and was voted "Most Happy Go-Lucky" by his classmates. Jack was lucky. Though his family's circumstances were reduced by the Great Depression, he attended Swarthmore College, a small Quaker school outside the city, on scholarship. He loved it there and met a student, Helen (Henny) Ogden, who became the love of his life. After sophomore year, Jack enlisted and flew reconnaissance for the Navy in a SP2C seaplane in the South Pacific. He married Henny while on leave in 1945, and after the war he went back to Swarthmore College on the G.I bill, now a young husband and father. For more than 20 years Jack worked for Aviation Week and McGraw Hill in Philadelphia, later operating two small businesses. He loved the company of his children, whom he took to the beaches of New Jersey, whose sports games he watched, and who, when small, he patiently read to, but he also expected independence and self-reliance. Jack was a great cook and showed his love through hospitality. In retirement in southwest Florida, he and Henny loved hosting friends and family. He golfed, read and worked to enlarge the small town library and get pay raises for the librarians. He wrote many letters to Congress and local papers, pleading for decreased defense spending. Jack was a warm grandfather and will be missed by his many grandchildren who dubbed him "Peepaw," "Peeps," and "Jack." He played games to win, and it was exciting for little kids to have him as an adversary. As his grandchildren grew, Jack was always interested in all their "doings" and loved that they embraced life wholeheartedly. In his last years, under the bane of dementia, he lost all pretensions to gruffness and his temperament was transparently sweet natured. Jack is survived by his wife Helen, in Bellingham, his son Peter Willis (Carol) of Westby, Wisconsin, son Andrew Willis (Alia Denner) of Ellensburg, and daughter Sue Willis (Paul Schissler) of Bellingham, brother Dan, of Philadelphia, along with many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother, Tom. Jack was an idea man whose best idea was to be kind and sympathetic to his family, friends and to everyone he encountered. He truly enjoyed his life and tried at all times to have some fun. He will be missed. You may share memories with the family at www.westfordfuneralhome.com.
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Westford Funeral Home & Cremation
1301 Broadway Bellingham, WA 98225
Published in Bellingham Herald on Aug. 17, 2014