Jimmie Willis passed away at the age of 90 on May 6, surrounded by his grandchildren at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula.
He was born to Evelyn (Taylor) and Richard Willis on November 24, 1930 in a log cabin in Milltown, MT, delivered by his Aunt Nona. Jim lived all his life in Milltown. He attended Missoula County High School, graduating in 1951.
Jim enlisted in the US Army and was stationed in Berlin, Germany during his service. He loved to share stories of this time, including the recipes he learned while working as a cook.
Jim met the love of his life, Karen Elstone, while cruising the drag on Higgins Avenue. They were married on October 24, 1959 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and celebrated 47 years of marriage together before Karen passed away in February of 2006. He liked to tell the story of dining at a Mexican restaurant on their wedding day and how good the meal was. Decades later, they went on a road trip to the same area and returned to the same restaurant, Jim laughed as he told us how terrible the food was the second time, but they still enjoyed the road trip. Jim loved going on road trips with his family.
Jim and Karen raised two sons, Scott and Randy. There were numerous tales of repeated trips to the emergency room. Scott and Randy always kept them on their toes.
Jim supported the family by working at the Mill in Bonner. During his tenure at the Mill, he worked for the Anaconda Company, Champion and eventually retiring from Stimpson Lumber, all while working at the same location. When Jim was getting ready to retire, he found out he had to get a birth certificate. This proved to be a very difficult task given his age and being born in a log cabin. He was asked if there were two people currently alive that were present at this birth. Given the struggles he was having, he answered Yes! Aunt Nona and HIMSELF!
One of the highlights of his life was being an avid Grizzly sports fan. His son Scott and he shared season football tickets for 40 years and arguably had the best seats in Washington Grizzly Stadium. Jim also had season tickets for men’s and women’s basketball. In true Griz fashion, he loved to yell at the refs.
One of grandpa’s favorite past times was attending his grandkid’s activities. The grandkids and their friends always looked forward to seeing grandpa at their events. He was always their biggest fan in everything they did. The only Griz games missed were to attend the grandkid’s events. After their graduations, he looked forward to their visits and phone calls. Family was everything to him; he loved them so much.
Being an active member of the community kept Jim busy. He enjoyed walking with the Piltzville Walkers, up to 10 miles on a good day. He was a long-time member of the Hellgate Lion’s Club, including serving as President one year. On Tuesdays, you could find Jim volunteering at the Bonner Milltown History Center and Museum chatting with friends while sharing his fresh baked cookies. He loved meeting new people while he was there and never met a stranger. He felt it was so important to preserve the history of the community he grew up in and loved. Jim was always ready to lend a hand in the community and in his church.
Jim loved working in his flowerbeds and making sure his lawn was well taken care of, it was always beautiful. He truly enjoyed the quiet times sitting outside looking at the mountains and watching the occasional wildlife and the planes flyover. He went to early dinner every day and loved putting a few bucks in the slot machines. His family thought he must be the luckiest guy alive when it came to his fun with gambling; he always had great stories about his winnings, but never his losses!
Jim is preceded in death by his wife Karen and brother Fred Willis.
Jim is survived by his two sons; Scott and wife Debbie of Missoula and Randy and wife Leslie of Frenchtown. Jim’s grandchildren; Beau of Austin, TX, Jamie of Missoula, MT, Jack of Greenville, SC and Jessie of Frenchtown, MT, sisters Maybelle (Cal) Bonnet and Barb Carvey and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held at the graveside at the Missoula City Cemetery at 1:30 PM on May 13, 2021. Reception to follow at the Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 8985 MT-200, Bonner, MT.
Those unable to attend the graveside service may view below.
Family request memorials be made to Our Savior's Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 1005, Bonner, MT 59823 in lieu of flowers.
Jimmie's Memorial Folder