Willis Minton Fales was born on January 7, 1930 to Minton "Mac" and Beulah Fales in Klamath Falls, Oregon. His Father was born in Redwood Valley and worked in sawmills for most of his life in northern California and Oregon, they went where the work was and eventually "stayed put" in Willits where Willis and his three Sisters, Shirley (Wagner), Carol (Crouch) and Arlene (Hamilton) grew up and attended school.
Willis attended Pine Street School and Willits High and worked at various odd jobs as a boy eventually going into the USAF at the young age of 16, with his Mother's help in changing his birthdate by one year. He was proud to have served as a Fireman (Crash-man) at Westover Field in Massachusetts and was honorably discharged as a Corporal in 1949.
He met Betty Gagnon while in the service and they were married after his discharge. They had one child, Nancy (Stipe). He lost the "love of his life" in 1956 when Nancy was 6 years old. In 1959 he met and married another wonderful woman, Ann Landry who had a young son, David. Willis and Ann married in Massachusetts and had a daughter Sally (Schnitzius) and a son, John. They headed back to California in 1960 to settle back in Willits with his family. In the 80's his marriage to Ann ended in divorce and he eventually married Markie Flint and helped raise her children, Don and Michiline.
Willis worked at several places during his lifetime the longest being Seaside (Little Lake Industries). He talked of loading thousands of board feet of redwood into boxcars for 50 cents per thousand bf. He eventually became a foreman there and enjoyed the people he worked with very much. At the end of his career he was designing redwood furniture for Little Lake and Leisure Time Products in Nevada. In 1986 Willis broke his neck in a fall at Little Lake and that ended his career. Willis and Markie moved to Portolla, California for a few years where he enjoyed many hours in his shop creating things out of redwood. He made hundreds of redwood "fiddle clocks" to give to friends and family.
He ended up back in Willits in 1996 on his own. He bought an RV and put it in the RV Park at the Golden Rule Mobile Home Park. He loved living at "the ranch", a favorite spot from his childhood. He became the "unofficial" camphost there sharing stories of life in Willits and the Howard Family and Seabiscuit to all the people passing through. He said he thought he'd met someone from every state. As a young man and as a provider for his family, he was an avid hunter and fisherman and spent many hours driving up and down our coastline looking for surfish and rock picking for abalone, but in his later years became a true lover of nature. He was known on the ranch as "Will, the man who handfeeds the deer". The deer would press their noses to his screen door looking for him. Will was able to remain in his beloved home on the ranch until two days before he passed peacefully at his daughter's home on June 20, 2014.
Willis was preceeded in death by his wives, Betty and Ann, his parents, his three sisters, two half-brothers, Earl and Ray and his grandson Christopher Schnitzius. He is survived by his children Nancy (Roger Stipe) and John (Lynn) of Willits, Sally (Raul Madrid) of Maryland and David (Leslie) of Washington, Don (Kim) Flint of Marysville and Michiline Flint of Lincoln, and Brother-in-Law, Bud Crouch of Bodega Bay. He is also survived by 20 Grandchildren, 31 Great-Grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews, and his two good friends at Golden Rule, Rick and Mark.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Stipe home at a later date. Donations may be made in Will's name to Ridgewood TRAIL Riders, 16200 N. Hwy. 101.
Published in Willits News from July 2 to Aug. 1, 2014