Lois Inez Willis, beloved wife, sister, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother departed this life on Thursday, November 17 in Maryland. She was 98 years old.
Lois was born on February 6, 1924, to Thomas and Mary Dallas in Opelika, Alabama. She was the fifth of six children: Alma, Mary, Elizabeth, John, and Selma. Lois and her siblings were very close and enjoyed their lives together in exemplary love for one another.
During a time when educational opportunities for African Americans were limited, Lois attended Tuskegee Institute, a private, historically black land-grant university in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Institute’s focus was providing students with rigorous academic and vocational training. She also took a job at the United Service Organizations (USO) where she met and fell in love with Randy Willis Jr.
Married on October 22, 1947, they remained loving partners for more than 60 years. Exactly one year after their wedding, Lois and Randy welcomed their firstborn son, Stretenous; and in the years to follow, four more wonderful children, Barbara, Brenda, Anita, and Randy.
As a military spouse, Lois and her family traveled to many bases around the world including in Germany and Texas. After fighting in both the Korean War and World War II and serving in the military for 20 years, Randy retired, and they settled in New York City. Trailblazers in the community, Lois and Randy owned and operated a Texaco Service Station in Nassau County; and Lois brokered solid relationships with other local businesswomen. She remained a devoted mother, community activist, and strong proponent of education serving as president of the school parent-teacher association. She also worked in retail for many years.
Lois had exquisite taste and loved clothing and accessories, especially high heels. She was also a magnificent cook and queen of the sweet potato pie baking with lots of love but without a recipe. And after a visit with Nana, the grandchildren went home with plenty of crunchy snacks and sweet treats. She crocheted blankets—and even hats—welcoming new babies to the family. She loved music and dancing to the oldies but goodies like Arthur Prysock, Brook Benton, and Nancy Wilson. She loved puzzles and word searches; and beating her opponents at bingo and Chinese checkers and winning money was always the ultimate victory.
Lois was a smart, charming, and captivating woman with an exquisite sense of humor. She found beauty in all things from furniture to art to nature; and she replicated that beauty in many ways but most of all in how she treated the close family and life-long friends she cherished. Lois loved, nurtured, and cared for all within her reach and beyond. Her unyielding faith and belief in God will keep her among the angels and those she left behind in comfort and at peace.
Lois’ husband, Randy Willis Jr.; son, Stretenous Willis; sisters Alma Patterson, Mary Fields, and Elizabeth Brazier; brother John Dallas; and son-in-law Melvin Marable preceded her in death. Her legacy of love and family lives on in her daughters Barbara Ford, Brenda Marable, and Anita Norton (Cornell Russ); son Randy Carlo Willis (Renea); sister Selma Graves and niece Cynthia; sister-in-law Beatrice Willis; daughter-in-law Anita Muhammed; grand and great-grandchildren Asaun Latieff and Camille Muhammad (Aaliyah, Alim, Jabbar, Nasir, Rasul, Jibrill, and Asha), Krystal Latrice Kizer (Quentin Brown), Ed Ford III (Ashley and Jerry Reynolds), Dana Ford (Christian); Keva and Dwayne Blair (Kingston), Kevin and Lynnette Marable (Ariana, Johan, Israel, and Cairo), Jazmine and Robert Eldridge (Averie and Cameron), Randall and Ashley Norton (Kennedy and Miles), Christopher Willis, and Jessie Willis; and a host of nieces, nephews, family and extended family across the country whom she always held very dear.