Clifton Lenwood Willis

July 8, 1917February 28, 2013
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Clifton Lenwood Willis, 96, passed away on February 28, 2013 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Clifton was born on July 10, 1917 in Atlantic, North Carolina. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939, along with 5 cousins from his hometown. During WW-2 he served in the Atlantic, on the USCG Alexander Hamilton; and in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters on the troop transport USS Wakefield. He was rescued by Icelandic fisherman when the Hamilton was torpedoed and sunk on January 29, 1942; however, 3 of his cousins, on the Hamilton with him, did not survive. Clifton was reassigned to the "lone wolf" transport (steamed without convoy protection) USS Wakefield carrying 5,000 troops to New Zealand; then troops from New York to Scotland. The USS Wakefield was destroyed by fire on September 3, 1942 on its return voyage to New York, and was towed to the Boston Navy Yard for complete rebuilding. After duty in Boston, Clifton spent the next 6 years on lighthouses off the New England Coast, served duty on a buoy tender, ICW navigation maintenance, and the USS Campbell; then served the remainder of his career at various Coast Guard facilities and lighthouses along Lakes Superior and Michigan. He retired in 1967, after 28 years’ service, as Chief Boatswain Mate, and completed a second career in the Public Works Department at Naval Station Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.

Clifton met the greatest love of his life, Dorothy Mildred Oliver, at a USO dance in Boston, Mass. in 1942. “Dotty” preceded him in death on April 14, 2000. Also preceding him in death were his parents, Minnie Smith Willis Fulcher and William Monroe Willis, and his stepfather, John Winfield Fulcher, all of Atlantic, North Carolina; and his stepbrother Graham Fulcher.

During his life, Clifton belonged to several organizations including Freemasons, Shriners, VFW, DAV, and BPOE.

Clifton is survived by his sons Paul Clifton Willis of Kissimmee, Florida; and Keith Lenwood Willis, and his wife Susan, of Hancock, Michigan. Grandchildren include Roziland McLeod, of Benbrook, Texas, Kasey Willis, of Hancock, Michigan, and Kristopher Willis and wife Lindsey of Hancock, Michigan. He especially enjoyed his Great Granddaughter Christina, and Great Grandson Michael, both of Benbrook, Texas. Viewing will be at the Rosewood Kellum Funeral Home, 601 N. Witchduck Road, Virginia Beach on Thursday, March 7th from 7:00 – 8:00; with funeral Services on Friday, March 8th at 2:00 pm at the funeral home. He will be interred alongside his wife in Rosewood Memorial Park, Virginia Beach.

The family would like to thank Becky Maher Rollins and Ella Cooper of Becky’s Helping Hand for taking care of our dad for the last fifteen years. Friends may offer condolences at


  • Visitation Thursday, March 7, 2013
  • Celebration of Life Friday, March 8, 2013

Clifton Lenwood Willis

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Androulla Charilaou

March 12, 2013

I'm so sorry for your loss I loved my weekly visits
We had together , you will be missed

Heartland volunteer

March 11, 2013

My first duty station out of boot camp was Portage Coast Guard Station, Hancock, MI. Chief Willis was the Comanding Officer. He was a great leader, and I enjoyed serving under him. We still have contact with his son Keith, who lives about 7 miles from us. You have our deepest sympathy on the loss of such a good man

Nancy O'Dell

March 7, 2013

Thought you might like this photo as a rememberance.