Sylvia Jean Willits

December 15, 1933January 2, 2019

Sylvia Jean Willits December 15, 1933 – January 2, 2019

Sylvia Jean (Zanelli) Willits passed away peacefully with her daughters by her side on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer.

Sylvia was born on December 15, 1933 in Fresno California, the youngest of four daughters of Achille and Madeline Zanelli. She grew up in Fresno, attending Franklin Elementary, Hamilton Jr High, Fresno High, and Fresno State, and in later years, attended Fresno City College to pursue her Respiratory Therapy career, which spanned over 45 years, finally retiring at the age of 80.

Sylvia met the love of her life, Fredric Willits while on a girls’ trip to Santa Cruz in 1952. They were married on August 27, 1955 and celebrated 56 years of marriage, until Fred’s passing in June of 2011. Together, they raised two daughters, Julie and Jeanne.

Sylvia loved her family, friends, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She loved to cook, entertain, play bridge, attend Fresno State football and basketball games and travel the world with Fred, close friends, and her girls.

Sylvia is survived by her two daughters and their husbands, Julie and Wayne Scholes, and Jeanne and Marshall Whitney. Sylvia or “Nama” as she is affectionately called by her grandchildren, also leaves behind Lauren, Ryan, Andrea, Reid, Zachary & Madeline, and two new great grand-babies, Beaux and Addison, along with many nieces, nephews, long-time friends, and her sweet dog Marcello. She loved all of them dearly.

Julie and Jeanne would like to thank her “Babes” that cared for her the last few months of her life, Mary, Cathy, Phaige, Breanne, and Laurie. These ladies were true angels and we are forever grateful. We would also like to thank her doctors, Dr. Hagar and Dr. Stanley for their compassionate care they provided.

A Celebration of Sylvia’s life will be held on Friday, January 11, 2019 at 11:00am at Northwest Church. In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to The American Cancer Society and the Valley Animal Center.


  • Celebration of Life Friday, January 11, 2019

Sylvia Jean Willits

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Lupe Martinez

January 10, 2019

I worked as secretary for the Respiratory Care Dept under Sylvia at Fresno Community Hospital after Marge retired. Sylvia was a wonderful, beautiful person and I came to love her as a friend. I was fortunate to become part of a group of therapists that would meet for dinner once a month, along with Sylvia, and just enjoy each other's company. I will truly miss her and just wish I could have one more dinner get- together with her .

May her soul rest in peace. My condolences and love to her family.

Lupe Martinez