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Linda (McNeely) Willis

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Linda (McNeely) Willis Obituary
Willis, Linda
Linda Willis, 64, a Phoenix resident for 34 years, passed away on November 14, 2017. Linda was born and grew up in San Diego, California. She was the youngest child of Jeannette and William McNeely. From a young age she loved theatre and animals. She accompanied her mother to Old Globe performances there, studied voice from her early teens, and went on to perform in high school and college theatre. Linda studied drama at San Diego State University and played the lead role in Guys and Dolls where she wore the original Jean Simmons costume from the movie version. Linda chose to continue her education in music at Schiller College in Strasbourg, France, where she came to love that country and became fluent in French. In fact she decided to settle in Europe and spent a few months in Heidelberg, Germany in the opera chorus, then took a job in Amsterdam where she remained for 5 years more. After 7 years she returned home to the U.S. where she also performed in various theaters in Los Angeles and Southern California before marrying and moving to Scottsdale with her husband in 1983, divorcing 10 years later. In Phoenix, while Linda worked, she did occasional commercials maintaining her Screen Actors Guild card, and attended ASU to receive her master's degree in Instructional Design. Linda began a career in adult learning, training and organizational effectiveness. She joined Scottsdale Insurance (now Nationwide) in 2001, and was instrumental in the creation and oversight of many learning programs during her tenure. Throughout Linda continued her love of creatures, big and small. She always had a passel of dogs, and her life dream of horses became realized in 2003 when she found her first horse, a Saddlebred. Soon she moved from Scottsdale to Desert Hills to keep horses there at her home with her dogs, and then chickens. Few creatures could escape her adoration, and feeding quail and hummingbirds at home not being enough she began volunteering at Liberty Wildlife doing education programs, sometimes with large raptors, always with a thick glove on her arm and a gorgeous grin on her face. Linda's characteristics of persistence, deep insight, delight in nature and beauty, and an irrepressible impish fun made her beloved of many. A Celebration of Life for Linda will be held on Friday, December 1 from 2-5 pm. For details contact Loretta at [email protected] The family suggests anyone wishing to contribute in Linda's memory donate to: Liberty Wildlife Center, 2600 E. Elwood Street, Phoenix, AZ 85040.
Published in The Arizona Republic on Nov. 28, 2017
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