|Birth: ||Dec. 20, 1946|
|Death: ||Jan. 20, 2014|
Robert Allen "Bob" Willis passed away on Monday, January 20, 2014, at his farm east of Carrollton, Carroll County, MO., USA. Age 67 yr 1 mo.
Bob was born in Carrollton, MO., the only son and eldest child of Edwin Marion Willis and Evelyn Florence Todd. His mother had wished for his middle name to be spelled Alan, but due to an error on his birth certificate, he used the spelling of Allen his whole life. He grew up on a farm just north and east of Wakenda. He never was shy to hard work, but played as hard as he worked. He was an adventurous soul, and always took time to search around, and absorb the beauty of this earth, and treasured friendships along his path.
During his years of youth, he enjoyed putting together model airplanes, leather crafting, blue printing, refinishing furniture, working with his 4-H projects, building a crude cabin in the woods with an ax, and countless other hobbies. As a member of the FFA Chapter, he had several projects, to include the care of his beloved cow, whom he affectionately named "Herky". His first 'job' was to work in the Bales' Orchard, picking strawberries and peaches. He next worked for Clinton Winfrey, near Bosworth, MO. with the process of growing tobacco on the Winfrey farm, and, too, before graduating from high school, Bob tried his hand at raising his own tobacco crop for a couple of years. He planted it on the government allotment for tobacco raising, on the farm of Mrs. Wirt (Mary) Goolsby. The allotment was too much for one teenage boy to process all by himself, so ended up being a family project to get it to market on time. He methodically saved his money from an early age and at 17, purchased his very first car. A 1953 two-door, green Mercury. He would later brag about having the fastest record of speed for making it from Wakenda to Carrollton, taking the country roads, and racing with his buddies.
Growing up, the Willis home and yard was often filled with neighbors and friends who gathered to have picnics, birthday parties, and hot dog roasts. Bob was easy to know, and seldom seen without his contagious smile. Left with no electricity, due to a winter blizzard on his 66'th birthday, he roasted hot dogs in his wood stove. He made the best of all situations and walked through his troubles, never carrying around regrets.
With the farm life, the Willis children grew up with cow poo between their toes, never scheduled hours. Often the sparkle of lightening bugs, and the mourn of the whip-poor-will in the Burr Oak tree, led them through the dark, to the house on the hill, called "Home".
Bob's first car was a 1953 two door Mercury, purchased with his own saved money. It would be the beginning of his love for personalizing each vehicle he ever owned. As he dated his wife to be, he was proud to pull up in his 1959 Cadillac convertible, white with red interior. It got 5 mpg and he would carry a spare 5 gallon of gas in the trunk so he could make it back home. His vehicles always had the added Willis uniqueness, and one of his favorites was his Ford blue Cadillac. His colorblindness, and picking out different shades other than most would see, left room for some teasing.
He enjoyed hunting for deer and turkey, fishing, spending many days on the lake with friends and family. He loved fireworks and would host an annual display for the "Lake Bunch". More recently he put an elaborate cabin in the woods on his property, next to a pond.
He attended Wakenda Grade School, Wakenda, Carroll County, MO., where he graduated from the 8'th grade, then was bussed to Carrollton High School, (as Wakenda did not have a high school,) and graduated with the class of 1964.
Following in his paternal grandfather and his father's footsteps, he enlisted in the United States Navy, leaving for active duty in December, 1964. Bob, who was a long time exceeding the 5' mark, stood on his tippy toes, so that he would be accepted to serve his country. He was a USN Seabee, and his military service took him across the states, Africa and Vietnam. He was always very proud to have served our country, and could still wear his Dress Blues more than 40 years later. He received his Honorable Discharge in December of 1968.
On a hot day, he married Mary Sue Finley of Stet, MO. at the Wakenda Baptist Church,on August 23, 1969, officiated by Rev. Arlie Cummins. He and Mary Sue celebrated the next 44 years together. Upon his discharge from the Navy, he had come home, declaring that he would never marry, and that he was going to become a millionaire by the time he was 30. With change of plans, at age 22, he would find that his richest blessings would be to marry the love of his life and would treasure the birth of their two children, and later their grandchildren.
One would only have to snicker, when asked to list Bob's occupation/s. There were too many to mention, as he explored many avenues of life's work. If one would list his outside employment, he first worked for the City of Carrollton for 10 years, then 2 years part time. From there, he decided he would open a salvage yard on his property, which also gave him the opportunity to teach his son the mechanics of life. Mary Sue was working nights at this time, and Bob was teaching their daughter cooking skills at age 7. As another 10 years had passed, he decided to seek outside employment. He filled out his name, address, phone number, then handed back the application. He was told "Mr. Willis, you need to complete the rest of this." Bob's reply was "you don't need all that, my kids are hungry and I need a d... job." They replied "Come in Monday. And so it was, he spent the next few years working at Wilson's of Marshall, MO., until they closed the doors. From there, he would work the next 20 years at Con Agra Foods, in Marshall, MO. in the Maintenance Dept., where he was known for his personalization of his tool box, and often used "an old Indian trick" to fix things. It was during his employment there, that, at age 57, he graduated from State Fair Community College, in Sedalia, MO., with an Associates Degree in Industrial Mechanics. His family was very proud of him, and easy to pick out of the graduates as he was the only bald one, as they took off their caps in prayer.
Just after his first year of marriage, and while straightening bent nails for re-use, Bob gave the name of "Bent Nail Ranch" to their farm. "Bent Nail Bob" would follow him the rest of his days. He was an artist in his own way, decorating his farm with his works. With old car parts, shovels, rakes, old machinery parts, pretty much anything of metal, he welded together one of a kind treasures, to include a huge dinosaur that sits in his yard. He began making "something" for his mother, wife and two sisters in the mid 80's. It was always a surprise to unwrap them from newspapers or old sheets, to see the newest addition to their collection. He dubbed himself the "Pollock Artesian" and stated that a handful of welding rods, a shot of whiskey, and a little imagination was all that he needed. He never sold any of his works.
Bob and Mary Sue were world travelers, visiting every state and numerous places across the world. He took literally thousands of slides and photos of their adventures. Their children were involved in many of those USA trips. It was a requirement with Bob, stating "Leave your troubles here, and we'll pick them up when we get back home."
He was a member of the Wakenda Baptist Church, joining at an early age, a member of the FFA Chapter of Carrollton High School, a member of the Leta Lads and Lassies 4-H, and a member of the Pence-Lovell-England Post # 1773 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was honored by representatives of the United States Navy, and with full Military Honors provided by Post # 1773.
His insignia of the Bent Nail, was affectionately, and literally "branded" on his Barnwood casket by his son, grandson, and son-in-law. A very unique casket for one unique man. Upon the close of services at the cemetery, fireworks were set off in his memory, followed by cheers. During the numerous repeating of the fireworks, the winds calmed, only long enough for their completion, then resumed. Bob wouldn't have wanted for the day to pass without at least some smiles and laughter. Something that one could not think of Bob Willis without association with.
Bob is survived by his wife, Mary Sue, of the home; his son Robert Andrew "Andy" Willis and his wife Deborah Ann, of Carrollton, Missouri; and his daughter, Amy Marie Sarbaugh and her husband Aaron, of Carrollton, Missouri; a special friend that he considered to be a daughter; Holly B. Ballew, of Kansas City, Missouri; one sister, Loretta Ann (Willis) Rainey-Fones (who he and other family members always called "Dumpy") and her husband Roger, of Bogard, Missouri; brothers-in-law, Larry Stephenson (widow of Linda (Willis) Stephenson), of Dean Lake, Missouri. Brothers of Mary Sue, and his brothers-in-law; George Finley and his wife Barbara, of Hardin, Missouri, Alva Finley, and his wife Davita, of Wood Heights, Missouri, Otto Finley and Penny, his significant other, John Finley and his wife Barbara, of Norborne, Missouri, and once brother-in-law, Martin "Digger" Rainey, of Carrollton, Missouri; three grandchildren: Robert Austin Willis of Brunswick, Missouri, Tanner Lee Sarbaugh and Kesley Eve Sarbaugh of Carrollton, Missouri; three step-grandchildren: Shanna Garrett, Victoria Lewis, and Andrew Lewis; one step-great-granddaughter, Ava Garrett; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents; Thomas B. Reed Willis and Myrtle Daisy (Fox) Willis; his maternal grandparents; Don Otto Todd and Martha (Plomp) Todd, his parents; Edwin Marion Willis and Evelyn Florence (Todd) Willis and his sister; Linda Kathaleen (Willis) Stephenson.
The family received more than 500 friends during visitation, which was held from 9:30 a.m. until 10:45 a.m., on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at Bittiker Funeral Home, 1201 North US 65 Highway, Carrollton, Missouri. Followed by funeral services at 11:00 a.m., at Bittiker Funeral Home, Carrollton, Missouri, with the Reverend Willis "Willie" Turner officiating, and his sister, Loretta, speaking. Burial was in Evergreen Cemetery, DeWitt, Carroll County, Missouri, with a Military Honor Service provided by Pence-Lovell-England Post # 1773 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, accompanied by representatives of the United States Navy.
His favorite song, "Silver Wings", by Merle Haggard was played during the funeral services, along with "The Old Rugged Cross", and "Go Rest High On That Mountain", with Vocalists, niece and nephew, Tara Finley and Taylor Finley.
Pallbearers were Bob's good friends:
Memorials were made to Family Choice, and will be used to purchase his tombstone, an everlasting memorial
from his loving family, friends and coworkers.
In loving memory of my dear brother. God only gave me one brother, turns out, you were the best, and all I ever needed. "Dumpy"
Click on the photos for captions.
Edwin Marion Willis (1915 - 1997)
Evelyn Florence Todd Willis (1926 - 1988)
Robert Allen Willis (1946 - 2014)
Linda Kathaleen Willis Stephenson (1950 - 2009)*
Loretta Ann Willis Rainey-Fones (1953 - ____)*
Note: Bob passed away suddenly in the shop on his farm, but was pronounced deceased at the Carroll County Memorial Hospital, Carrollton, Missouri
Created by: Loretta (Willis) Rainey-...
Record added: Jan 20, 2014
Find A Grave Memorial# 123832330