A Tribute To Wiley Willis, by Editor Darren Doyle
Over the years, Edmonson County has been home to some of the finest people ever to walk the face of the Earth. It still has some of the finest today; unfortunately, we now have one less as our very own WWII Veteran and veterans' advocate Wiley Willis has passed on.
We were notified Saturday, May 14th by a resident close to the family that Wiley died in his own home of natural causes, surrounded by his family. Physically, one of the smallest grown men I ever knew at 5'4" and less than 100 pounds, but in terms of character, quite possibly the biggest man that ever lived here.
Click here to listen to our interview with Wiley on our talk show "County Conversations." Wiley tells a really funny war story about shooting a picture of Hitler.
This man was a war hero. He watched some his friends die before his eyes. He saved others. He lived in a generation of people that had character and heart like no other generation. He was shipped off to Normandy Beach in February of 1943 at age 22, and faced fears like no others. While most of today's 22 year-olds are playing video games, trying to get to the next level, Wiley Willis was literally trying to save the world.
Wiley made an appearance with us on our local talk show, County Conversations, back in November of 2015 as we recognized Veterans Day. A source close to Wiley told us that he often talked about coming on the show and how much he enjoyed that day. Family members said it was likely the last "fun thing he ever did."
While his service in WWII was incredible, including receipt of the Bronze Star; Purple Heart; American Campaign Medal; EAME Theater Medal with one Silver Service Star; Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp; the World War II Victory Medal , the Good Conduct Medal and the French Medal of Honor, his service to veterans and Edmonson Countians in the years to come had just as much impact.
He helped start Edmonson County's DAV Chapter 32 and remained a faithful member until his death, advocating for the rights and services of veterans all over Edmonson County and Kentucky.
He became a Christian at age 90 at a church service at Pleasant Union United Baptist Church when he bowed on his knees and was saved just over four years ago. He shared that experience with many; seldom without tears of joy.
He loved America and he loved the flag. I loved to hear his "old war stories." He told lots of good ones that were better than the movies, many of them comical or even uplifting. There were also stories that were very harsh, as you would imagine.
My life is better having known Wiley Willis. America is less without him.
I picture in my mind the angels in Heaven standing at attention, saluting him as he walks down the golden street.
Thank you for your service, Mr. Willis. You will be missed.