CHULA VISTA, Calif.—Imel H. Willis, the kindest and best of men, passed away Sept. 2, 2013 at the age of 96.
He was born in Pike County in the community later named Willisville for his parents, Floyd H. and Inez G. Willis, who owned and operated the Willis General Store there. Mr. Willis was most recently living at 350 Palomar St., Chula Vista, California, having resided in Southern California since 1966.
His wife of 73 years, Rachel Morris Willis, preceded him in death in 2010. Together, theirs was a life of service to the Lord and to others. They lived through the harsh times of the Great Depression and World War II. Drafted into the Army, Mr. Willis served our country in post-WWII military administrative assignments, while stationed in Korea.
Working as a team, Imel and Rachel not only strove to improve their own circumstances, but also that of those around them. Some of their greatest joys were helping someone to better himself, most importantly in saving faith in Christ, but also in education, in a job, in a troubled relationship or out of a predicament. They were active in the Church of God in Petersburg and other locations. Both enjoyed playing stringed instruments. Imel helped to establish the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra, in which they participated.
Mr. Willis worked his own way through three degrees at Indiana University. He began his career in education in the one room schools of rural Indiana. He was teacher and principal in various Indiana schools and the American Dependent Schools in Germany. He was principal of Baldwin Heights School and was the first superintendent of the Gibson County Unified School District. He concluded a 40 year career in Coronado, California. In his retirement, Mr. Willis wrote his memoirs of his life from horse and buggy days to the space age, entitled Plow A Straight Row, which can be found in the public library.
Mr. Willis was the eldest of seven children, of whom MaryBelle Gray and Wesley Willis, of Willisville, preceded him in death. Surviving are his sister, Lelah Pancake of Marshal, Ill., James Willis of Indianapolis, Morris Willis of Washington, and Rev. O.W. Willis of Noblesville.
Imel and Rachel Willis were the parents of five children, of whom Sandra (Bell) Davis and Janet Ray Breidenbaugh preceded them in death.
He is survived by Anita Powell of Escondido, Calif.; Floyd I. Willis and wife, Angie, of Chula Vista, Calif.; Inez R. Lancaster and husband, Mark, of Bentonville, Ariz; son-in-law, Robert Breidenbaugh of Otwell and Escondido, and his wife, Tommie.
Grandchildren: Dr. David Bell and wife, Lisa; Greg Davis and wife, Vicki, Ariz; Dr. Mark Breidenbaugh and wife, Caralisa, Ohio; Hyla Breidenbaugh, Douglas Powell and wife, Lisa, Tyler Powell and wife, Rebecca, Raquel and William Willis, Calif.; Daniel, Aaron and Laura Lancaster, Ariz.
Great-grandchildren are Toft Breidenbaugh, Cole Davis, Rick and Scot Rogers, Sarah Nunley, Alexander, Carson, Nathan and Natalie Powell, Jeff Bell and Nathan Bell.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at Harris Funeral Home in Petersburg .
Visitation is Friday, Sept. 13, 4-8 p.m.