Willard James Gross was born on a farm near Oakley, Kan. Oct. 3, 1918, to Arthur James and Bessie May Howard Gross. |
He arrived 15 minutes after his identical twin brother, William. Willard was the eighth of 10 children.
He passed away Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, at the Kit Carson County Memorial Hospital at the age of 95.
Willard received his grade school education in Goodland, Kan. and his high school education in Colby, Kan.
Willard moved to Burlington in June 1945, where he took the position as assistant cashier at The Bank of Burlington, later promoted to cashier.
In January 1981, he accepted the position of executive vice president and later served as president before retiring from the bank Jan. 1, 1991.
It was at the bank where Willard met the love of his life, Iva Knapp who was working as a teller.
Willard and Iva were married Sept. 10, 1950, at the close of church service. They had a captive audience. To this union was born three children; Jerry, Bruce and Janet.
Willard had many passions in life, the greatest being his family. Willard was a true family man.
Whether it was a small family dinner, or a large family reunion, you could count on Willard to be there with family in tow.
Every year there was a guaranteed vacation so that he could spend time with them. Some just short trips to the State Lakes for fishing or few hours to Denver and others like the three week long car ride to Disney World.
Willard loved spending time with his grandchildren. He would invite the grandchildren over to spend the night, where he would show them how to make his famous plum jelly, be the model for the granddaughters to create the newest hair fashions and was always there to cheer them on at their sporting events.
He was definitely one of the grandkids' biggest fans.
Willard had a green thumb that produced some amazing Kit Carson County Fair's prize winning vegetables.
All the family and neighbors were able to enjoy his love of the garden since there was always more produce than he could use.
He was also known for his wonderful Christmas lights display. It was a must, to drive by every year to see Willard and Iva's beautifully decorated house.
Willard was also very passionate about Scouting. When living in Colby, he became a registered Scouter and continued his service after he moved to Burlington.
He was in the Scouting program for 73 years. He has mentored hundreds of boys, molding them into becoming good citizens of the community.
The summer of 1955 was a highlight of his service to Scouting when he took a group of 10 Explorer Scouts on a two week canoe trip to Canada.
In 1963 Willard took his family to Philmont Scout Camp where the whole family took training, (cub master, den mother, Scouting for the boys as well as activities for little Jan).
Willard was so proud to have two of his grandsons, Jeff and Joe Gross, obtain the rank of Eagle Scout.
In Burlington, Willard was known as "Mr. Scouter". In 1952, Willard received his "Silver Beaver" award, which is the highest honor that the Council can bestow upon any of its volunteers and is given for outstanding service in Scouting for boys.
Some of Willard's best memories and activities in Scouting were Scout-O-Ramas, Scout Circuses, Mardi Gras, Court of Honors, Campouts, Pinewood Derbies, Blue and Gold Banquets, Philmont Scout Camp, the canoe trip, Camp Alexander, and the thrill of taking the Cub Scouts on a Bear Hunt!
In 1951, Willard became a member of the Burlington Rotary Club (another one of his passions).
He was a Paul Harris fellow with 6 rubys, and loved what Rotary stood for, "Service Above Self".
He served as the club's 26th president for the 1961-1962 term. The highlight of that year was the 25th anniversary celebration of the club in which over 200 Rotarians, Rotary Anns and guests were in attendance.
He loved going to Rotary every Wednesday night. When he couldn't make it to the meetings he would drive to Goodland to make it up.
To every new president elected he would tell them, "Rotary is not just every Wednesday night, you live Rotary every single day."
Willard was also instrumental in making the Rooster Round Up what it is today.
Willard was a member of the Burlington United Methodist Church.
Over the span of 65 years he served on many boards and committees, sang in the choir and taught Sunday school.
His grandchildren remember him leading the children's choir on Sunday mornings before they would head to Sunday School.
It was always a treat to have Grandpa lead everyone in "Deep and Wide", complete with a big smile and large hand motions.
In 1988, he received the Torch Award at the Rocky Mountain Methodist Conference.
Going to church was a routine that was instilled in him as a child and he was very proud to carry it on with his family.
Willard was a member of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.
He was always honored to head up the annual Easter Egg Hunt and over the years has made great Easter egg hunting memories for thousands of excited kids. He received the first Burlington Chamber of Commerce Tony Award in 1999.
Even with all of his activities, Willard thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at the Colorado Welcome Center where he logged in 21,085 hours over 15 years.
Willard was very interested in travel and history. He enjoyed every opportunity to meet a new face and excited to learn about where they came from and where they were headed.
Willard was an excellent husband, father, brother, uncle, grandpa, great-grandpa, and friend. He will be missed by all, but his memories will live on forever.
Willard was preceded in death by his parents, five brothers (Elmer, Frank, Howard, Ralph and William), and three sisters (Mable, Hazel and Pearl).
Willard is survived by his wife Iva, son Jerry (Connie), daughter Jan (Dave) of Burlington, son Bruce (Dovie) Salida, eight grandchildren; Jeff (Diana) Gross, Austin, Texas, Jenny (Justin) Scholz, Windsor, Joe (Laurie) Gross, Golden, Michael (Karen) Gross, Salida, Dovi (Jed) Warthen, Virginia Beach, Va., Laura Gross, Grand Junction, Joslynn Weber, Jessi (Ryan) Ostoyich, Lakewood, 13 great-grandchildren, sister Ruth (Etcyl) Blair, Midland, Mich., many nieces, nephews and friends.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Willard's name for the Boy Scouts of America, Burlington Rotary Foundation or Burlington United Methodist Church and may be sent to The Bank of Burlington, 410 14th St., PO Box 427, Burlington, CO 80807.
Celebration of Life Service was held, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at the United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Jeffery Babb officiating. Burial was at Fairview Cemetery.
Visitation was held on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Love Funeral Home in Burlington.
Friends may go to www.lovefuneralhomes.com to sign the family's online register book and to leave an online message of condolence for the family.
Funeral services were entrusted to Love Funeral Home in Burlington.
Published in The Burlington Record on Feb. 20, 2014