Jay C Willis was born October 19, 1916, in Cedar City, Iron County, Utah, to Lemuel William Willis and Rhoda May Bladen Willis. He died January 13, 2015, in Saint George at the well-worn age of 98.
He was second born of five children. His older brother Max, younger brothers Warren (who died right after birth) and Thurman, and younger sister Carmen (who died just before birth) all preceded him in death.
Dad considered his childhood to be idyllic; growing up with most of his cousins all living within a block of him and being able to play and work with them daily. Summers were spent on Cedar Mountain herding sheep with his brothers and cousins for his grandfather Bladen. He graduated from the Branch Agricultural College (now SUU) in 1937, where he worked his way through college as a grounds keeper for the school.
In 1952 he married Gloria Farnsworth. Gloria died just a few days before their 58th wedding anniversary in 2010. He is also preceded in death by grandson William Victor Jones and granddaughters Maylynn Noel Willis and Samantha Marie Hilliard.
He is survived by all five of his children: Sandra (Arlo) Jones of St. George, Utah, Kenneth (Velma) of Clinton, Utah, Jay (Mica) of Baldwin, KS, Kerry of Cedar City, Utah, and Nancy (Ron) Faulkner, St. George, Utah. He is also survived by 20 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.
Jay joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 to serve during WWII. He did his boot camp in Kearns, Utah and “primary” in Cedar City, Utah. Dad was trained to fly Taylor Craft AT6. He was then sent to Independence, California for his “secondary”.
After Dad’s “secondary” ended he was scheduled to go to North Field, Wisconsin near Carlton College. However, he was 10 pounds underweight and was offered an honorable discharge. Dad did not want to leave the service during a time of war. Since he was top in his class, the doctor offered to give him a 17 pound waiver, which he took instead. He was then allowed to continue his training. At Carlton, Dad went through training as a “gentleman”. His unit was then sent to Chanute, Illinois for more training.
Jay’s unit then went to Jefferson barracks near St. Louis, Missouri, where they waited for a month. The men were expecting to be made Lieutenants and be given assignments. However, quite to their surprise, they all received honorable discharges instead in 1944. Soon after he returned to Cedar City, Dad left again for California and worked at Long Island, repairing radios and radar for Navy ships serving in the Pacific Theater. He served there until the end of WWII.
In Cedar City, Dad had a molding mill and often made runs to California to deliver the moldings he had made. In 1958, Dad got a job with the Utah State Highway Patrol and became a Chief Dispatcher. He worked as a dispatcher in Weber County until 1978 when he retired.
Jay died at home after a series of strokes that started just before his 98th birthday. He was a gentleman to the end.
- Funeral services will be Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, at 1 p.m. in the Spilsbury Mortuary, 110 S. Bluff Street, St. George, Utah.
- Viewings will be held Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 5-7 p.m. at the mortuary and on Wednesday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., prior to services at the mortuary.
- Interment will be in the St. George City Cemetery.
Arrangements have been made under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary, St. George. Family and friends are invited to sign his online guest book at the Spilsbury Mortuary website. A live webcast will be available for those unable to attend the service. Phone the Spilsbury Mortuary office for information at 435-673-2454.