Edward Martin “Red” Willis, 88, of Waterloo, S.C., passed away after a sudden illness on November 16, 2018. He was the son of Robert Martin and Marcelle Satterfield Willis.
Red was preceded in death by his adored wife of 55 years, Margaret Geraldine “Gerrie” Willis, and five brothers: Robert, Garth, Jack, Charles, and William.
He is survived by his sister, Shelby Boling, his sister-in-law, Rose Lynn Willis, his children, Robert “Rob” Willis (Karen), Debra Frandsen Heaton (John III), Donna Foster, Dixie Neff (John) and grandchildren, Shaun Frandsen O’Connor (Phelim), Lindsey Frandsen, Kyle Frandsen (Erica), Erin McNeely (Chad), Leah Willis, Matthew Foster (Ali), Zach Neff, Parker Neff, and step-grandson John W. Heaton IV; great-grandchildren Luke, Liam and Elin O’Connor, Kinleigh and Emma Frandsen, and Abel and Evie McNeely; and numerous loving nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Red was a highly decorated veteran of the United States Air Force where he served for 23 years as a Pararescueman (also known as a PJ), part of the Air Force Special Operations community who rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile areas. Their motto is “That Others May Live.” He is a recipient of a Silver Star Medal, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and an Air Medal.
After his retirement in 1974, he and Gerrie returned to their roots, their home state of South Carolina. There, they reunited with old friends and family, although their pararescue friends would be family for life. He rarely missed a Pararescue Reunion, including the most recent one in September 2018.
Red was an avid woodworker and nearly all family members have a birdhouse, Adirondack chair, or table he made by hand. He loved his family and friends dearly, whom he spoke to regularly on the phone or during visits to his house on Lake Greenwood. His true happiness was found on his deck, laughing and telling stories with visitors.
He traveled the world with the Air Force and had a career of which the nation and his family could be proud. A graveside funeral service with full military honors was held on November 20, 2018, at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Laurens SC.
The family wishes to especially thank Red’s devoted Lake Greenwood neighbors and his nephew, Mark Nye Willis, who officiated the funeral service, and the many fellow PJs who attended the service.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office Christmas For Kids at P.O. Box 68 Laurens, SC 29360.
Condolences may be expressed online at www.thekennedymortuary.com.