Born Jean Louise Evans on February 11, 1926 in Moundsville, West Virginia, Jean passed away peacefully in the comfort of her home on May 2, 2012, surrounded by loved ones. Jean was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She will be remembered for the unconditional love she bestowed on her friends and family, never doubting their innate abilities and goodness.
Jean shared 70 of her years with her beloved husband Bill. Bill claims it took him years to get her attention, but for him it was love at first sight. After dating for four years, they married in 1946 and shared a lifetime of adventures. Her natural curiosity and love of new experiences served her well as they moved to places she and her questioning family considered exotic. She claimed to prefer sharing coffee and gossip with friends to the great outdoors, yet she happily accompanied Bill on many Grand Canyon hikes, river trips and flights in his noisy, tiny Cessna to places as far off as Alaska. After retirement, Bill and Jean spent several years exploring Europe. They finally settled in Tucson, devoting their time to family and friends. Jean was active at St Paul’s United Methodist Church and volunteered for several charitable causes.
Bill and Jean raised four children, encouraging and supporting them to follow their passions. She opened her home to her nieces, nephews and friends of those she loved. She was a deeply devoted grandmother. She was always there to share in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s lives. Her unwavering support helped many through difficult times.
Jean was a dedicated educator, teaching middle school math and biology in Flagstaff and Buckhannon, WV, where she and Bill attended college at West Virginia Wesleyan. She graduated with honors in 1947. Jean continually worked to improve her teaching skills, earning a Masters in Education from NAU. When asked how she was able to survive middle school for so many years, she replied that she loved it, she found adolescence full of sweetness and poignancy.
Jean is survived by her husband Dr. William R. Willis; her sister Mary Ruth Fletcher of White Plains, New York; and her children: Jeffrey Willis of Tucson; Steven Willis (Ann Cummins) of Oakland, CA and Flagstaff; Dr. Catherine Willis (Dr. Peter Rowson) of San Francisco, CA; and John Willis of Scottsdale. She also leaves behind nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Jean Evans Willis was loved, cherished and will be greatly missed by those who knew her. A memorial service will be held June 9, 2012 at 3pm at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 8051 E. Broadway, Tucson. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Willis Family Scholarship in Physics, care of the Northern Arizona University Foundation.
This obituary was prepared by the Advertising Department (928) 556-2279.