Obituary Listings

Willis Herndon

December 5, 1931 April 22, 2019
Willis Herndon
There are condolences waiting approval on Willis's Tribute wall
Obituary for Willis Herndon

Willis Ray Herndon, 87 (but he would want you to guess), of Marionville, Missouri, passed over to glory Monday morning, April 22, 2019, in his home with his loving wife, Gina, by his side. He was born in the Ray House at Wilson’s Creek on December 5, 1931 to EB and Flo Herndon. He was the third child of six.

Willis attended several small country schools where he of course had to walk up hill both ways. He met the first love of his life, Kay Sonya, in February 1954 and quickly (as in 2 weeks later) convinced her to become his wife as they were married on March 6, 1954. This 2 week courtship turned into a lifelong love that lasted over 60 years. Willis & Kay were blessed with one child, Gayle, who was the light of his life. As a trio, the three of them traveled the world both literally and figuratively. The phrase “daddy’s little girl” was never more true than with Willis & Gayle, and it continued to ring true even at the age of 87 & 60.

If you ever met Willis, you never forgot him. His personality was a force of nature—but in every positive way possible. He cared deeply about those he loved, and never met a stranger. Even if you thought you were, after likely a 30+ minute introductory conversation…you left as fast friends. There are likely many waitresses & waiters who will soon realize they have a Willis-sized hole in their lives.

Willis ran away from home at the age of 16 to join the United States Air Force, where he was quickly discovered to be underage. His mother was required to give her permission for him to continue on this career path that would lead him to his first retirement. He retired from the USAF after 21 years of service. After retiring from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant, Willis then went to work for the Bureau of Federal Prisons for 22 years where he was known for building relationships with his subordinates, who just so happened to be inmates. It was here that he obtained one of many nicknames, Daddy Rabbit.

After his second retirement, Willis filled his time with all things. He was a championship bowler and a fisherman, but his true love was golf. Although some would argue it wasn’t the game, but the chance to build those relationships—-or maybe it was hunting for those golf balls others had long given up on. He didn’t want to spend his time golfing with those who drank too much, cussed too much, or smoked too much…the game was supposed to be fun, to just get up there and WHACK it. Willis also became involved in City of Marionville politics where he served multiple terms as city alderman and town mayor.

Town Grandpa might have been proud of his daughter, but that in no way compared to the pride that he had in his grandchildren. He never missed a piano recital, softball game, or academic awards night for Lauren; or a basketball game, football game, or track meet for Nick. He was a Marionville Comet through and through, and nothing made him prouder or smile bigger than when he got to say “That’s my grandson/granddaughter!” You would have been hard-pressed to find anyone more excited to see the Comets win the 2003 State Football Championship. Willis went on to become a huge SBU Bearcat fan as Nick went on to play there.

Most recently, Willis has cherished the moments he got to spend with his great-grandchildren having many opportunities to engage with them or in the case of Nora Kay, even being her babysitter for a few special moments.

Willis trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ at an early age and was always involved in church related activities. He rededicated his life in 1968 at Burns Flat Baptist Church where he & Gayle were baptized together on the same day. There was nothing more important than his relationship with Christ, and wanted to make sure that everyone he knew shared in that relationship as well. Willis was a deacon & Sunday school teacher at Marionville First Baptist, where he was also the first official “Penny Pete.”

His first love Kay passed away in September 2014 after 60 years of marriage, but God blessed him with second love as he married Gina Stringer in October 2017. After losing Kay, it was Gina who brought back the smile & the twinkle in his eye. She brought him immense joy. As far as his daughter was concerned, that was one of the Lord’s greatest blessings as He provided such a wonderful lady for him to care about in his final years. They had such fun together.

Willis was preceded in death by his parents along with three brothers, Junior, John, & Don Herndon, and his sister, Betty. He is survived by his wife, Gina; daughter Gayle and her husband, Randy, of Marionville; two grandchildren and their families, Lauren & Nick Layman and their daughters Elyse Ann and Nora Kay of Republic; and Nick & Millie Smart and their daughter Harper Marie and sons Troy Wayne and Brody James of Springfield. He is also survived by his brother Robert (Bob) Herndon and his wife Sara of Marionville. He was also survived by his “adoptive” son Keith Cook, who never missed a day calling to check on him. Numerous nephews, nieces, and great friends are also missing him today.

A funeral service, under the direction of the Crafton-Cantrell Funeral Home in Aurora, MO, will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Marionville First Baptist Church with interment at the Marionville IOOF Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, at the Marionville First Baptist Church. Please join the family in honoring him by the wearing of Dallas Cowboy or Marionville Comet attire or just Comet Blue.

Memorial donations may be made to the Marionville First Baptist Church Pavilion Fund in care of the funeral home.

Online condolences may be shared at this website.


To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Willis Herndon, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events

Visitation

Wednesday

24

Apr

6:00 PM 4/24/2019 6:00:00 PM - 8:00 PM 4/24/2019 8:00:00 PM
First Baptist Church of Marionville

301 S. College Ave.
Marionville, MO 65705

First Baptist Church of Marionville
301 S. College Ave. Marionville 65705 MO
United States

Funeral Service

Thursday

25

Apr

10:00 AM 4/25/2019 10:00:00 AM
First Baptist Church of Marionville

301 S. College Ave.
Marionville, MO 65705

First Baptist Church of Marionville
301 S. College Ave. Marionville 65705 MO
United States

Burial

Thursday

25

Apr

11:00 AM 4/25/2019 11:00:00 AM
Marionville IOOF Cemetery

Hwy 14
Marionville, MO 65705

Marionville IOOF Cemetery
Hwy 14 Marionville 65705 MO
United States

Cemetery Details

Location

Marionville IOOF Cemetery Final Resting Place

Hwy 14
Marionville, MO 65705

Hwy 14 Marionville 65705 MO
United States
Albums

Create new album
1 File
Tribute Video
 
Subscribe To Obituaries



We appreciate your support
In accordance with the wishes of the family, this
message has been declined.
Willis Herndon

Thank you for sharing your
memory of Willis

Provide comfort by sending fresh
flowers from our local florist.

Send Flowers
No thanks, please don't show me this again.
Loading...