Dorris L. Willis, of Jewett, passed away at Providence Hospice Place in Waco on Thursday, May 3, 2018, at age 94.
Funeral Services were held on Sunday, May 6, 2018 at Little Flock Baptist Church. Reverend Bill Sutton of Oletha Baptist Church officiated, along with Rev. Tad Traylor, former minister at Little Flock. Music was furnished by Aloma Kennedy, pianist, and Judy Oates and Elizabeth Burke, vocalists. Burial followed in the Little Flock Cemetery.
Pallbearers were Scott Sherrill, Jason Sherrill, Mark Phillips, Greg Phillips, Jordan Phillips, and Tanner Phillips. Honorary pallbearers were Joe Hancock, Eugene Stone, Tommy Crane and Randall Crane.
Dorris was born December 31, 1923 to Ernest Rhodes and Uler Maria (Sparks) Rhodes in the Bear Grass community. At age 16, she left the small rural community to move to Houston and work at Southwestern Bell as a telephone operator. In her early years she took a bus to travel around Houston as she did not drive until later in her life. She changed jobs, and worked for Great Southern Life Insurance Co., until her retirement many years later.
Dorris was united in marriage with John Alton Willis, in the late forties, right after World War II, after he had been discharged from the Marines and returned home. She met him due to his friendship with her brother, Pete. Dorris and John Alton lived most of their married life in League City, while she continued to drive to work in Houston.
Dorris and John had a weekend home at Lake Mexia, where she enjoyed fishing. After they retired they bought land and moved back to her home community at Bear Grass. She did not stay retired at home, but stayed busy, first with an interest in ceramics, owning her own kiln to fire her works. She later operated a quilting business, The Quilt Patch, next to her home. She had grown up learning sewing skills from her mother and made her own clothes as an adult, so she had always been involved in sewing. She pieced the quilt tops and quilted them on her own quilting machine, and also quilted tops for others. She and a friend sold her quilts in Dallas and Houston and craft shows.
Dorris knew how to work on her many interests in a big way, including the ceramic kiln and quilting machine she taught herself to use. One thing she never learned to like was flying in John’s plane. She was the navigator but he didn’t go where she told him. So she never wanted to fly, including not wanting to be flown to Waco in a helicopter after her accident last week.
She loved to cook, and cooked large amounts of food as if to feed an army. She would smoke 20 chickens at a time in the professional smoker in her garage. She would keep a little of the things she cooked to eat herself and take the rest across the road to Brenda and Robert. And when there were meals at church, she didn’t just prepare a dish, she prepared two or three or six dishes, as recently as this Easter Sunday.
Dorris was a lifelong devout member of the Little Flock Baptist Church. She insisted on being the dishwasher after meals there. If she was not there on Sunday morning, Sunday night, or Wednesday night, something was wrong. Especially this past Sunday, when she had fallen even after she was dressed for church. She had been blessed to live a good life independently for so many years, and will be missed by her church family, and her own family and friends.
Dorris was preceded in death by her parents; her husband John Alton Willis; her son, James Rodney “Rod” Willis; brother and sister-in-law, Wilbur “Pete” Rhodes and Helen Rhodes; and sister and brother-in-law, Billie Rhodes Slemp and Pete Slemp.
She is survived by her nephew and niece (and close neighbors), Robert and Brenda Sherrill of Jewett; niece and nephew, Doris and John Phillips of San Antonio; sister and brother-in-law, Peggy and Joe Hancock of Teague; and numerous great-nieces and nephews.
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