ROCHESTER - Larry C. Willis, 72, died Sunday, June 16, 2013 at home after a hard fought battle with pancreatic cancer.
Larry was born in Iowa Falls, IA on February 28, 1941 to Clyde and Hazel (Dellinger) Willis. He married Kaye Parker, his college sweetheart, on December 21, 1963 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, MN.
Larry graduated from Clarion High School, Clarion, IA in 1959. He was involved in many activities and lettered in 3 sports; football, wrestling and baseball. His favorite sport in high school was wrestling and he was captain of the team. He won many tournaments, was unbeaten in his conference, and in his junior and senior year he qualified for the State tournament, winning an Iowa High School Championship in 1959. He was named an All-American.
He went on to attend Winona State College, (now WSU), where he was on a college scholarship for wrestling and lettered four years. He won many tournaments in college and placed 4th in the NAIA National Wrestling Tournament his sophomore year. He was twice captain of the team in college, named to Michigan Tech's “All-Opponent Team” and an All-American. Larry was involved in many other activities while in college and, in his senior year, he was inducted into, “Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges”.
He started his teaching career in 1963 at Bamber Valley School where he taught elementary and was assistant principal for several years. Following Bamber Valley he taught at Churchill, and later Churchill-Hoover. He went on to pursue a Master's Degree in 1967 from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, and later his Education Specialist Equivalency at WSU. While teaching in 1976, he was selected as “An Outstanding Leader in Elementary and Secondary Education”.
Sports were Larry's main hobbies. He was active in the past in bowling, golf, church softball league, hunting, fishing, and motorcycling with Kaye. His best golf experience happened when he was 65 years old and hit an albatross, (hole in one on a par 4), at 277 yards, on hole number 10 at Soldier's Field Golf Course. He also was active in the past in the YMCA Big Brother program. He thoroughly enjoyed taxiing his grandchildren, watching them play sports, participating in school and church functions, plus spending time playing with them at the Rochester Athletic Club. The “breakfast club” at HyVee was another enjoyment, along with yearly fishing trips with friends and colleagues, yearly mini-reunions with friends from Clarion, IA and the monthly card club.
During retirement Larry researched, compiled a booklet, and distributed copies of the history of Clarion High School wrestling from 1924-2011. It lists State and Team championships plus place winners. After 2 years of working on this project he then researched and compiled a list of All American NAIA tournament wrestling winners and place winners from Winona State University 1956-1978. The latter is displayed on a creative poster in the Athletic Hall of Fame at WSU along with an old warm-up of Larry's. He was a great fan and follower of high school and college wrestling, especially MN and IA.
He held a lifelong membership in the National Education Association, was a member of the MEA, REA, and was a vice president of the Southeast Rural Educators Association. Larry and his family are all members of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
Larry will be remembered for his fun-loving personality, intelligence, dedication to family and his teaching profession, energy level, repairman skills, plus his wonderful outlook on life even during his illness.
Larry's family would like to especially thank Jessica Mitchell, CPN, all the nurses on Mayo Gonda 10, and Mayo Hospice for their wonderful care, as well as niece Kim. Your kindness will never be forgotten.
Larry is survived by his wife Kaye, two children, Sally (Matt) Willis-Oeltjen and Jane (Brett) Willis-Ness, all of Rochester; four grandchildren, Taylor, Katie, Brendan, Colin; one step grandson, Jacob and a nephew, Robert McBurney. Larry was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Joyce; and a brother-in-law, Russ.
A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00am Friday, June 21, 2013 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 1212 12th Ave. NW, Rochester, MN with Rev. Dr. Charles Ortloff officiating. Visitation will be from 4:00-8:00pm Thursday, June 20, 2013 at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Home, 5421 Royal Place NW, Rochester and an hour prior to the service at the church. Burial will take place at Oakwood East Cemetery.
Memorials can be directed to Pancreatic Cancer Research at Mayo, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, or donor's choice. To share a special memory or condolence, please visit www.ranfranzandvinefh.com