Melvin L. Willis was born on April 11, 1923 in a small logging camp in Caribel, Idaho, to Guy and Rose (Moore) Willis, and passed away of natural causes on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood. He was a child of the Depression, living in numerous homes in the Glenwood area after his father lost his farm.
He attended the old Glenwood Schoolhouse through the eighth grade and then went to work in the woods to help support his family. In January of 1941 he joined the Navy at 17 and was commissioned aboard the USS Savanna in Hawaii, before leaving on tour in December just before the Pearl Harbor attack. His ship then went through the Panama Canal headed for a tour in the North Atlantic. While on tour in the Atlantic, he had shore leave in Maine and met a beautiful French girl, Anita Plourde, from Lewiston, Maine. She was the fifth child of 17 and also left school after the eighth grade to work in the textile mill to help her family. They became pen pals and when the war ended, he headed to Maine and married her.
After a short stay in Richmond, Va. working in the shipyards as a welder, he packed his family up and headed home to the West to Tacoma, Wash. where his parents relocated during the war. In 1946 their daughter Kathleen was born and 11 months later in 1947, their son Allen was born. He decided he had enough of the big city and moved his family back to Kamiah in 1948. Their daughter Alexis was born in Cottonwood in 1950.
In 1951 he decided he was going to build his family a new home. He bought a book of plans and a how to build your own home and built the house by himself, finishing in 1953. After completing his home, he went to work for a new logging company named DABCO, Inc. and was their shop foreman for 32 years, until he retired in 1985. He and Anita lived in the house he built for 51 years, until in 2004 she made him sell the home and move to Grangeville, near their son. Little did he know, she had cancer and wanted him to be near family when she was gone. She passed away on June 30, 2006. For the past 12 years, Dad and I have had coffee every morning with the downtown boy’s coffee group. Eleven years ago, he met his loving companion, Deloris Kindall, at the senior citizen center. They shared many wonderful days, dancing, playing cards, and visiting with all their friends. He had a great life. He was an honorable, hardworking man that could do anything he put his mind to.
His great passion was hunting. He bagged his first deer at 10 years old, with a 22 high-power and got his last one at 90 years old with his trusty, Model 99 Savage, .308 Winchester. He took great pride in providing his family with our winter’s supply of meat. He was a remarkable shot and never missed a year in getting his elk from 1948 to 2009 when he decided the hills were too steep for him to climb anymore. He always said the deer and elk were there to feed us, and to never kill anything we did not intend to eat. He left his family and loved ones with many wonderful memories.
Mel was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Anita; his mother and father; sisters Doris, Margaret, and Betty; and brothers Ralph, Albert, and Cecil.
He is survived by his loving companion of 11 years, Deloris Kindall; two daughters, Kathleen Biggers of Boise, and Alexis Keegan (Jim Knighton) of Camano Island, Wash.; and son Allen (Michelle) Willis of Grangeville. He also leaves his grandchildren, Angela, Darcey, Kevin, Lisa, Kelly, Trisha, Duane, Dana, Hillary, and Marty; 17 great-grandchildren; and seven great-great- grandchildren.
A Funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, April 28 at 11:30 a.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Grangeville. A memorial luncheon will follow at the church. Send condolences to the family at Blackmerfuneralhome.com. Arrangements are under the direction of Blackmer Funeral Home of Grangeville.