Robert Thomas Willner|
December 4, 1930 - September 13, 2013
SALEM - Robert Thomas Willner, retired diplomat and founder of Oregon International Council born December 4, 1930, died Sept. 13, 2013. He is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Phyllis T. Willner, daughter Jan Willner Houk and husband Gary R. Houk of Reno, Nevada, son Jonathan Willner and wife Elizabeth Harden Willner of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and three dearly loved grandchildren Riley of Seattle, Washington, Mathew currently stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington and Corina of South Hadley, Massachusetts.
After graduating Harvard University in 1952 he briefly attended Boston University intent on a Masters degree in English. Finding the New York Times more interesting reading he joined the US Army, eventually being stationed on Hokkaido, Japan, where he was joined by Phyllis, one of the very few spouses of enlisted men on Hokkaido.
Upon leaving the military he joined the US Foreign Service, serving as a diplomat primarily in Seoul, South Korea, Berlin, Germany and Washington, D.C. Shortly after his second tour in South Korea he became diplomat-in-residence in Oregon. Finding Salem, Oregon an exceptionally pleasant environment he retired from the Foreign Service and became a resident of Oregon.
His passion for education, improving the world as a whole and the value of second language as a mechanism for improving the world led him to found Oregon International Council (OIC) in 1983. OIC provided opportunities for teachers to increase their understanding of and ability to teach about foreign countries and foreign languages. He was also heavily involved with the Confederation in Oregon for Language Teaching (COFLT) for the same purposes.
Throughout his life he had a passion for seeing and experiencing the new and different. The word "explore" meant going off the beaten track. He leaves a legacy of foreign travel and interest in the world to his family and friends. His other passion was language - he spoke several and punned without mercy in English.
His survivors wish to thank the staff of Gibson Creek and Hospice Care of the Northwest for their kindness and care in the last months of his life. No service is planned. If you wish, contribute to a
in his name.
Arrangements by Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service.
Published in StatesmanJournal on Sept. 18, 2013