Katharine Jackson "Kathy" Willis, 75, passed away peacefully on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
Kathy was born in Apalachicola on Nov. 23, 1944 to Alice Hodges Jackson and Robert Gavin Jackson. While Kathy always considered Apalachicola her home, she lived in many different places during her upbringing including Highland Park, Illinois (her father's home) and Austin, Texas.
Eventually the family settled in Tallahassee, where Kathy attended Leon High School, graduating in 1962. A particularly formative period during high school was her junior year when she lived in Heidelberg, Germany. Due to her father's illness that year, Kathy's parents sent her to live with her Uncle Joseph Hodges and his family where her uncle was stationed abroad with the U.S. Army.
Kathy later majored in history at Florida State University, where she graduated in 1966. That same year she married her high school sweetheart, Lee Lawrence Willis.
After several years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Lee was stationed in the Army, the couple returned to Tallahassee. Kathy taught social studies at Cobb and Griffin Middle Schools and supported Lee while he completed law school at Florida State. Her transfer from Cobb (historically white) to Griffin (historically Black) was part of the integration of Leon County Schools in the early 1970s.
Later, Kathy became a full-time homemaker and was active in a number of community organizations in Tallahassee and Apalachicola. She has been a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Tallahassee and Trinity Episcopal Church in Apalachicola. In the last 10 years Kathy has split time between Apalachicola and Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Throughout her life Kathy dedicated herself to helping others. Until the very end she remained concerned about various community projects and organizations in Apalachicola. She was never happier than when she was helping family and friends.
Kathy was preceded in death by her parents as well as her stepfather, George Yent Core; her son, Robert Gavin Willis; and her husband, Lee.
She is survived by her daughter, Helen Ausley Willis; her son, Lee Lawrence Willis III (and wife Breeda); and five grandchildren: J.T. Willis Escobar (and wife Susannah), George Core Escobar (and wife Ellie), Katharine Parlin Escobar, Grady Willis Escobar, and Roisin Marie Willis.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Kathy's memory to The Matchbox P.O. Box 1017, Apalachicola, FL 32329; or to the Franklin County Humane Society 244 US Hwy 65, Eastpoint, FL 32328
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Kathy Willis