Obituary: Willis, 66, passes away |

Obituary: Willis, 66, passes away

John “Les” Willis passed away on April 8, 2009, in his Tahoe City home at the age of 66. He fought a courageous battle against brain cancer for 19 months, but he never let it conquer his spirit. He is survived by his wife Mary Lynn, his children Mike Willis and Wendy Buchanan, his three grandsons, Luke, Jake and Boden and, of course, his two loving Golden Retrievers Sadie and Molly. He valued his family above all things.

He was born in Los Angeles where he eventually became a captain on the Los Angeles City Fire Department. He followed his father’s lineage into the department where at the age of 30 he became one of the youngest captains. He passed up multiple promotion opportunities so as not to interfere with his family’s quality of life.

In 1976, he moved his family to Tahoe City. There, he built a home and raised a family. For 22 years he commuted to Los Angeles for work because he believed no other place could offer his family the qualities he and Mary Lynn valued most in life.

As a teen, Les was an Eagle Scout. Over the years he exposed his children to a Tahoe lifestyle: snow skiing, water skiing, camping, boating, golfing, hiking and bottomless chips and salsa. He was also “a man with a project.” His children fondly remember blissful days of splitting wood, painting the house and mowing the grass. He may have owned the cleanest car in Tahoe as he was known for washing his car about 362 days a year.

Les was free and giving with his smile and he never spoke ill of anyone. He mentored his kids through their downhill ski racing careers and was a board member of the Far West Ski Association for many seasons. He was a Dollar Point Homeowners Association president, a marshal at Tahoe Donner Golf Association and Coyote Moon Golf Course. He retired from the fire department in 1996 and dedicated his time to the sport of golf and spending time with his family. Les was the most kindhearted, generous and wonderful man. He will be missed.

If you would like to honor Les’ memory, donations may be made to: Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research and Information,, or Tahoe Forest Hospital Hospice, P.O. Box 759, Truckee, CA, 96160.

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