Edward Malone Willis
October 21, 1917 – December 29, 2008
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Ted Willis of Vernon, BC, quietly at North Okanagan Hospice House, after enjoying family Christmas — and a few hands of bridge with three of his kids. Ted was predeceased by his wife and life partner of 64 years, the redoubtable and ever-patient Jean (nee McNally). Stubborn father of five remarkably unstubborn offspring, David (Joanne Irving) of Vernon, BC; Ted, Jr (Heather Menzies) of Regina, SK; Eric (Margaret Watson Willis) of Collingwood, ON; Greg (Jane Vice) of Vernon, BC; and Melanie (Peter Napier) of Ottawa, ON. Somehow, some of this ragtag crew were parents to Ted’s exceptional grandchildren: Colin (Candace Dobson-Willis) of Kamloops; Eric (Colby) of Portland, Oregon; Andrew of Collingwood, ON; Brendan (Julie) of Kelowna; Liam of Toronto, ON; and Christina of Kelowna. Ted also leaves his much-loved great grandchildren, Michael of Kelowna, and Laurenne and Emerson (aka Fast Eddie) of Kamloops. A number of nieces and nephews figured large in Ted’s life; he particularly enjoyed the cheer of Barbara Hanna. His roots in Ireland and his relatives there were important.
Ted was a force of nature. Even when he was sitting still, he was moving. He grew up in Calgary, the son of Irish immigrants. He was brilliant in school, but left to join the RCAF in 1939, where he became an instructor in the Commonwealth pilots’ training programme. He met and married Jean and they moved a great deal during and after the war. With a young, growing family, Ted never found his way back to university, something he always regretted. He had a keen mind and remained insatiably curious until the very end of his life. He would have done well at anything scientific or mechanical — although some might have thought he’d have had a worthy comedy career. His lifelong specialty was making people laugh.
Children adored him. Neighbourhood kids were always his best friends as he had a natural and sensitive ease. His grandchildren, likewise, benefitted from this; they often became co-conspirators seeking out sweets or extra desserts, Ted’s favourite pastime.
Ted spent many years in the automotive supply business, and ended his career as national buyer for Sears. He retired to Vernon for many reasons, but mostly to spend time with his grandchildren there. He loved to sing and joined many choruses throughout his life. In his heart, he was a prairie boy and loved the wide expanses and nuanced colours of that underrated and spectacular environment, but he was happy to be outdoors anywhere and loved the natural world. He loved dogs, but was noncommital about cats.
Thanks to the determined, selfless support of ‘#4 son’ Greg, Ted was able to remain independent until the last very short period, as was Jean able to do so before him.
He will be missed.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be offered to the North Okanagan Hospice Society. Ted spent his last few days at their hospice house. He loved the place, he loved the people and, quite typically for him, he really appreciated the great food.
A small memorial service was held for Ted at Vernon Funeral Home on Saturday, January 3rd, with Reverend Lorraine Powell officiating.