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Official Obituary of

Donald Paul Willis

April 10, 1925 ~ January 21, 2024 (age 98) 98 Years Old

Donald Willis Obituary

Donald Paul Willis

April 10, 1925 - January 21, 2024

Don Willis, 98, of Elkhart, passed away on Sunday, January 21, 2024, at East Lake Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. He was born on April 10, 1925, in Elkhart, IN to the late Lee and Lieta (Pippenger) Willis. On June 27, 1948, he married Nancy Gehrand at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Elkhart. He was preceded in death by his brother and sister, Arthur Willis and Helen Willis Shreiner. Don is survived by his wife Nancy and his four children: Bruce (Lisa) Willis, Gregg (Kimberly) Willis, Brian (Cynthia) Willis, and Shirley (David) Robey. Also surviving are his 10 grandchildren: Rachel (Patrick) Abel, David (MaKayla) Willis, Daniel (Laura) Willis, Rebekah (Noah) Lombard, Ian (Saralyn) Watts-Willis, Tristan Watts-Willis, Ben Willis, Brenda (Michael) Kotouc, Katharine Robey, and Eli Robey. He is also survived by two great-grandchildren, Everett Abel and Theodore Abel.

Don was a 1943 graduate of Elkhart High School. After graduation, he served in World War II from June 1943, to October 1945, and was wounded in Normandy in July 1944, earning his Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He attended Purdue and Indiana Universities, earning his B.S. from I.U. in 1951 and M.S. in 1956. He continued his academic career by attending summer courses at Montana State, Reed College, the Florida Institute of Technology, and Notre Dame. Don taught chemistry and math, beginning in Salem, Indiana, returning to Elkhart in 1958 to teach at Elkhart High School and then Elkhart Central High School. He and Nancy were strong supporters of the music and theatre programs at the school, as well as serving as senior class sponsors for several years.

Don enjoyed singing in choirs and barbershop quartets and was a member of the St. Paul’s United Methodist Chancel Choir, 1963 Cardinal District Champion barbershop quartet The Roadrunners, and The Hartsmen chorus. He especially enjoyed when the family would sing together, whether in church or just around the living room. He also built and collected model railroads and was a fierce UNO player with his grandkids. Don instilled in his family a love of camping and travel. He and his wife traveled much in their retirement, both abroad and across the country. He was a member of many organizations, including ECRTA, IRTA, NEA, Phi Delta Kappa, DAV, American Legion, Masons, Scottish Rite, and the IU Alumni Association. He was an active member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church for 66 years.

Per Don’s request, he will be cremated. A celebration of life will be held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on February 10, at 2:00 PM, with visitation for 1 hour prior. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church or The Center for Hospice Care.

  Inurnment will be held Wednesday April 10, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. at Rice Cemetery.  

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Services

Visitation
Saturday
February 10, 2024

1:00 PM to 2:00 AM
St. Pauls United Methodist Church
Beardsley
Elkhart, Elkhart 46516

Celebration of Life
Saturday
February 10, 2024

2:00 PM
St. Pauls United Methodist Church
Beardsley
Elkhart, Elkhart 46516

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