Rev. Dr. John Walker Willets (1941 - 2012)

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The Rev. Dr. John Walker Willets, 71, of Jacksonville, died Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, at Heritage Health in Jacksonville.

He was born July 6, 1941, in Moweaqua, the son of Carl Austin and Norma Ann Walker Willets.

He is survived by one sister, Marian (George) Manker of White Hall; and seven nieces and nephews, Bonnie (Rod) Wallace of Jacksonville, Vicky Smith of Houston, Robin (Karen) Manker of Chapin, Fred Manker of Springfield, Brenda (Jud) Hawk of White Hall, Bob Manker of Literberry and Julie Manker (Zach Pointer) of Springfield. He was preceded in death by his parents; and one sister, Virginia Arlene Carroll.

Dr. Willets graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1959 and from Illinois College in 1963. After graduating, he taught at Griggsville Junior High School and then taught Chemistry at Jacksonville High School. In 1969, he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in San Diego. After his discharge, he became an Associate Administrator at Burnham Hospital in Champaign. During that time, he attended the University of Illinois and received two Masters Degrees and a Ph.D. in Psychology. He then moved back to California to teach at Redlands University. While there, he was ordained as an Episcopalian Deacon by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In 1995, he began teaching at DePaul University in Chicago, which he continued to do until shortly before his death. He had also been an Adjunct Professor at Lincoln Land Community College.

John was a member of Jacksonville Kiwanis Club, the Jacksonville Elks and the ACLU. He was instrumental in starting the Do What It Takes Committee and was very involved with Jacksonville Promise. He was a gourmet chef, a wine connoisseur and a well-known computer whiz. He always put others first, and was the quintessential teacher. He was very community oriented, and he celebrated people for their differences. John loved his family, and he especially enjoyed spending time with his cats.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at Buchanan & Cody Funeral Home in Jacksonville. Burial will be held at a later date at the Calvary Episcopal Church Columbarium in Lombard. Memorials are suggested to Jacksonville Promise, Jacksonville Food Bank or Calvary Episcopal Church in Lombard. Condolences may be left at
Published in Jacksonville Journal-Courier on Dec. 14, 2012
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