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Marilyn Willis

August 5, 2019
Hart, MI



Saturday, October 19, 2019
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT
Clock Life Story Funeral Homes
Fruitport Location
3593 E. Pontaluna Rd.
Fruitport, MI 49415
(231) 865-6151
Driving Directions


Saturday, October 19, 2019
11:00 AM EDT
Clock Life Story Funeral Homes
Fruitport Location
3593 E. Pontaluna Rd.
Fruitport, MI 49415
(231) 865-6151
Driving Directions

Life Story / Obituary


WILLIS, MARILYN DAWN (WAGNER), Hart, MI. It is with great sadness

the family of Marilyn Dawn Willis announce the passing of our loving

and devoted mother, grandmother, and friend at the Poppen Hospice

Residence with her family by her side. Marilyn left this world on August

5, 2019, at the age of 87, following a valiant battle against the

complications of diabetes and chronic renal disease.

Marilyn was born October 18, 1931 in Hudsonville, Michigan as the only

child of the late John Russel Wagner and Mildred Elizabeth Edson. Her

love of farming (and radishes) started on the “muck farm” where she

spent her early years. Although an only child, Marilyn’s family were

among the earliest settlers to the Hudsonville area, and she grew up

with the company of many Aunts and Uncles, cousins and friends.

Along with many of her contemporaries, Marilyn grew up to be a

lifelong fan of swing era music. Perhaps because she played saxophone

in her high school and college marching bands, Boots Randolph and his

Yakety Sax was a particular favorite. She also developed an eye for

painting and decorative arts.

After graduating from Western Michigan University, Marilyn taught as

an elementary school teacher for five years. She married the late

Joseph Grant Willis on September 15, 1954 at her parents’ home in

Fruitport. Together, they acquired and operated “The Berries”

blueberry farm in Nunica and Fruitport, Michigan for many years. They

were a long-time seasonal employer in the area, and their television

ads for their You Pick blueberries were seen across the region. To this

day, it’s not unusual to for one of the Willis clan to come across

someone who fondly remembers picking or holding a summer job at

The Berries on Apple Dr in Nunica.

Being a dedicated member of the Michigan Blueberry Growers

Association (MBGA Member #10), the radish sandwiches Marilyn

enjoyed as a child were displaced by a love of all things blueberry.

Blueberry pies and treats were always a hit at family parties. When it

came to bringing a gift or contributing to the festivities, blueberry

themed calendars, knickknacks, or decorations were always a sure bet.

Joe and Marilyn blended farm life with traveling to interesting places,

often planning meet-ups with friends at a campsite. They spent many

enjoyable winters in Florida (most recently St. James City) in the

company of long-time friends, including a large number of fellow

blueberry farmers. They worked hard, played hard, and created a life

together modeled after their business motto: “It’s The Berries!”

Wherever Joe and Marilyn were, staying in touch with family was

always a top priority. Marilyn readily moved to using a computer for

farm operations, and became an early adopter of email. She later

became an avid Facebook follower, checking in regularly on her Kindle

tablet for updates and photos until her eyes failed.

Marilyn was skilled at all forms of handicraft, and she was exacting in

detail. If she caught an error, she was willing to undo many hours of

progress and rework it until it was exactly right. She always had new

projects to take on the road—most often gifts for family members. In

her own special way, she made sure to divide her time equally amongst

all of her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. Each one has

something lovingly made by hand from Grandma Willis. In this way, she

lived out the words on the cherished sampler she stitched for daughter

Cheryl: "When future eyes upon this dwell, think of the stitcher who

wishes you well."

Marilyn passed on her lifelong love of reading and learning to her three

children. Barry, Cheri, and Bob were each gifted upon graduation an

overflowing scrapbook of childhood school assignments and

achievements. She took great pride knowing all of her children and

grandchildren did well in school and earned college degrees. She was

also pleased to see her love of crafting, music, and the arts extend

through each of her children and grandchildren.

In her later years, Marilyn enjoyed following college sports, especially

cheering on Joe’s alma mater Michigan State University. She relished

post-game calls with family to share her excitement after a big win.

Marilyn is survived by her daughter, Cheryl (Rex) Cargill; sons, Barry

(Joanne) Willis and Robert (Chris) Willis; 4 granddaughters, Lori Cargill,

Lynn (Alex) Cunha, Sarah (Andy Savina) Willis & Johna Willis; great

granddaughters, Gabriella & Camilla Cunha; many nieces, nephews,

cousins & friends.

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, October 19, 2019, 11 a.m.

with visitation one hour prior to the service at Clock’s Sunset

Celebrations with Pastor Dr. Donna Rick officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations may be

made to Harbor Hospice Poppen House.