August 14, 1949 – March 8, 2018
Willemina “Willa” Chotiwat, 68, passed gracefully March 8, 2018, surrounded by family and close friends. Although her body may have succumbed to breast cancer, nothing could defeat Willa’s bright, courageous spirit, and she lived fully and joyfully until her last day among us.
Willa was born on August 14, 1949, to Martha and Henry Boterenbrood, in Elburg, a small Dutch fishing town that always held a special place in her heart. When she was a young girl, Willa and her family moved to Grand Haven, Michigan, where Willa spent the rest of her childhood. As a young woman, Willa, also affectionately known as “Willie,” was a nurse by trade and a free-spirited hippie at heart. After various adventures around the country, Willa eventually found her home in Atlanta, Georgia, where she moonlighted as a cocktail waitress and dared to color outside the lines, dining on baklava for dinner, making noodles out of kudzu, and hitting the tennis court in the wee hours of the morning after work.
In 1972, Willa met Chaiwat Chotiwat, who became her husband and best friend for the rest of her life. When the Chotiwat family grew, Willa shined as a loving mom who encouraged her two daughters to follow their hearts, act with compassion, and embrace difference. Willa also began working in preschools, where her gentle, patient spirit and genuine warmth made her well-loved. Blessed with the gift of empathy, Willa never shied away from helping others, whether that meant rescuing animals in distress or providing transportation to neighbors who could no longer drive. Because she chose to see the best in people, Willa was slow to anger and quick to forgive.
In addition to being gentle and generous, Willa was also remarkably tough and resilient. After being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, and through years of difficult treatments, Willa bravely resisted anger and despair. Standing tall as a pillar of strength and hope, Willa serenely accepted what she could not change and made the most of her time on earth, filling her days with love and laughter. Throughout her life, Willa delighted in the simple gifts, such as drinking hot tea and reading good books, and she was always excited to spend time with loved ones.
Willa lives on in the memory of her family: her husband, Chaiwat Chotiwat; her daughters, Christina and Johanna Chotiwat; her son-in-law, Matthew Keller; her future son-in-law, Brian Murray; her sister, Johanna Milewski; her brother, Hank Boterenbrood; and the family of Laura and Doug Pack. Christina and Matthew are expecting Willa’s first grandchild this summer, and he will learn all about his grandmother and how much she loved him. Willa’s friends, coworkers, neighbors, and many others whose lives Willa touched will also remember her fondly.
We will gather to celebrate Willa’s illustrious life from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Thursday, March 15, 2018, at H.M. Patterson & Son-Oglethorpe Hill Chapel; 4550 Peachtree Rd NE; Atlanta, GA 30319.
To honor Willa’s generous, giving spirit, in lieu of sending flowers, please consider donating to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (https://www.bcrf.org/breast-cancer-research) or Cancer Support Community Atlanta (https://www.cscatlanta.org/give/).
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene
- Gathering and Reception Thursday, March 15, 2018
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March 12, 2018
Having Willa for a friend in my life was truly a blessing. I will greatly miss her!
March 12, 2018
Willa, a jewel of a friend. A joy in my life. I will miss you my friend.