Donald S Willis

June 9, 1927February 2, 2019

Donald (Don) S. Willis, 91, who never met a stranger, passed away peacefully February 2nd, 2019, surrounded by family at Largo Hospital. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, June 9th ,1927 to Donald J. and Frances Sears Willis, he graduated St. John’s Military Academy, Delafield, WI, joined the Navy during WWII serving in the Pacific on the USS Mt. Baker Ammunition Ship. On his return, he attended Drake University joining the SAE fraternity. From 1949 until his retirement in 1993, Don spent his working career with Willis and Moore, an independent insurance agency started by his Father, DJ, in 1923 and now run by his son, D. Joseph Willis, II.

He married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lou Votruba Willis. Following Mary Lou’s death in 1995, Don served Woodside Hospice for 24 years initially transporting patients to cancer treatment, and later sitting with retired veterans and families in their 11th hour.

He served as past President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, founding member of The Breakfast Club, and an active member of Plymouth Congregational Church, including assisting with several ANAWIM Housing projects. Don believed that “The Brotherhood of Man transcends the Sovereignty of Nations”, a Jaycees Creed he shared that all men and women are equal citizens of this world in serving their God and humanity regardless of geographic boundaries.

Don and Mary Lou retired to Indian Rocks Beach, FL, while continuing to spend summers at their family cabin on Ten Mile Lake in Minnesota. Between Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida they were blessed with a wealth of family and friends. He enjoyed playing piano, golf, and sailing throughout his life. Don was an active member and past President of the Ten Mile Lake Association, helping to protect and improve the natural habitat. He was an active member of Plymouth Congregational UCC while in DSM, Union Congregational UCC (MN) and Church of the Isles-COTI (FL). He was a friend of Bill W for the last 34 years. His past memberships and associations included: Des Moines Club, DMG&CC, Belleair CC (Leaders Legends & REAP), BPOE, Masons & 32nd Scottish Rite, and the Iowa State Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

Later, Don met and married Carol Hewitt (from Des Moines) in Indian Rocks; and they enjoyed several good years together until she passed.

Don is survived by his two sisters, Betty Rae Koch in Des Moines and Harriet Huff in Madison, WI; his three children: Jeff (Teri) Willis in Tampa, FL, Nancy Willis and Joe Willis in Des Moines; two grandchildren: Jeffrey Troxler Willis in New Orleans, LA, and Salem (Tony) Elswick in Ruskin, FL; a great grandson: Ezra James Elswick; and his relatives from the Koch, Huff, Fletcher, and Blount families. Also surviving are Carol Hewitt Willis’ children: Gretchen Trusty Williams, Amy Cory, Eric Hewitt and their respective families. A celebration of his life will be held February 15, 2019 at 11 AM at Church of the Isles, 200 24th Ave. Indian Rocks Beach, FL 33785, with future celebrations in Des Moines and Minnesota. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Woodside Hospice or a local Hospice.


  • Mary Lou Votruba Willis, Wife
  • Carol Hewitt, Second Wife
  • Betty Rae Koch, Sister
  • Harriet Huff, Sister
  • Three Children: Jeff (Teri) Willis, Nancy Willis and Joe Willis

    Two Grandchildren: Jeffrey Troxler Willis and Salem (Tony) Elswick

    Great-Grandson: Ezra James Elswick

  • Woodside Hospice


  • Memorial Service Friday, February 15, 2019

Donald S Willis

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Brad Putney

February 15, 2019

Jeff, Nancy, Joe and the entire Willis family,
It is tough to sum up in a few words what your dad and your entire family has meant to my family. Mark and Don had been friends for 60+ years, an achievement I'm sure very few people enjoy. Our family will always be indebted to the Willis family not just for a wonderful friendship, but for the introduction and indoctrination to TML. A truly special place on this earth and one that we have been lucky to share with you for nearly 50 years. Your mom and dad gave me my first job mowing the lawn at your place and some days we would have to wait to mow until the duck pond would recede. And as lawn mowing evolved in to something else you dad was always there to offer me a helping hand. Joanna and I were very lucky to spend a number of evenings and share dinner with your dad in the summer of 2018. And while I'm sure we bored Don to tears with our family stories and dysfunction he was always a gentleman and a gracious dinner guest. We always enjoyed sharing some time with your dad and keeping ourselves caught up with him. He will be missed terribly by our family as well as the TML family, but never forgotten as his influence will be felt for many years. Condolences from our family to yours, and may your dad rest in peace. Love you all, Brad.

Mike and Jeanne Couper

February 9, 2019

Way back in 2010 Don and I became “the dynamic duo” at Hospice Woodside visiting Veterans in their final days. From the start, I saw what a kind, caring, giving, honest, and modest man my friend Don was. We spent many lunches together. My wife and I often went to watch the sunset from his condo and then out to dinner to his favorite places along Indian Rocks Beach. The waitresses loved him too! My wife has often said he is about the nicest man I have ever met. He was and is an inspiration to us all as he never complained. Rest in heavenly peace Don as you so deserve it.

Sonia and Nikolas Vano

February 8, 2019

Dear Nancy , Jeff and the rest of Don’s family,
Please accept our deepest condolences!
It was a privilege to have known Don and to have been his neighbors. We truly enjoyed Don’s company and his positive approach to life!
Kind man with a big heart!
Wise man with witty sense of humor - we will miss you!
We thank you Don for shared moments and we thank you for making us fall in love with Enstrom Almond Toffee!
Rest in peace Don!

Sonia and Nikolas Vano

Adrian & Patricia Thomas

February 8, 2019

We met Don in 2017 when we first came to Indian Rocks Beach. We came to Church of the Isles our first Sunday in town and it was because of meeting people like Don Willis that we continued to come back.
Each Sunday we'd have coffee following the service and Don would inquire about our housing search. We eventually purchased a home across the Intercostal from Don's home and every Sunday he would great us with an enthusiastic "Hi Neighbor"!
We were blessed to have known Don and pray that the Lord will bring comfort to his family.
Adrian & Patricia Thomas

Carol Bishop

February 8, 2019

To all the Willis Family,
We loved your dad as our own. The Schropp/Willis vacations were our life-long peanut butter and jelly staple. They filled us up with memories and made us whole with love. Through all the trials and tribulations that each of our families suffered and celebrated, there was a constant and solid support reverberating back and forth. With Don's passing we say good-bye to our "greatest generation". The legacy they left us is one we all carry with pride for the compassion each of them shared with their community and the loyalty bestowed upon their friends and family.
Don was always so generous with his smiles and musical talent, as well as his stories and hospitality, we enjoyed his company until the very end! We only wish that our Florida connection had been made before the last ship had sailed. And that's how we will think of him; sailing on the high seas, challenging Dad to another race, and laughing as he steals the win, once again!

Barbara Wilkins

February 8, 2019

I don't know anyone who knew Don didn't love him. He reminded me of my dad (Don and I were four years apart) the old fashioned gentlemen. Always polite, dressed neatly, well mannered and yet full of fun. A group of us used to go out or to each others homes for a Saturday night date and we either played games or just spent the evening gabbing and laughing. I sure will miss him.

Bettye and Arthur Barlis

February 7, 2019

Condolences to family and friends of Don Willis, He will be missed !

With love and caring,
Bettye and Arthur Barlis


February 6, 2019

We didn't know Don very long but what we did know of him was all good. May you rest in peace Don. We know you will be missed by many.

Linda Smith

February 5, 2019

My sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the family of Don Willis. He was a sweet, true gentleman. I will always remember his caring manner and always a smile. You will be greatly missed at Church of the Isles. Heaven has another angel.

Kristin Julia Halbritter

February 5, 2019

My deepest and most sincere condolences to the loved ones of Don. He was a lovely man in all my encounters with him while I was a member and employee of Church of the Isles, UCC. He always has a smile on his face when I saw him and was as friendly and gentle as could be. My heart aches at the news of his passing. May God bless his soul and welcome him to Heaven with open arms in peace and love. I will be praying for his family and friends to find comfort and happy memories in these difficult times. Much love. Rest in peace, friend.