Kansas History and Heritage Project-Phillips County

Phillips County Obituaries

Obituaries published after 1923 will be abstracted to avoid copyright violations.


WHEELER-- Died, Monday November 6th, on Plum Creek, Mrs. Wheeler, wife of Ed. Wheeler. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler were among the first settlers in the county, having located on Plum Creek in the summer of 1873, where they have remained ever since, opening up one of the finest farms in Greenwood township, and has done much to develop the country. Mr. Wheeler has the sympathies of all in his affliction. (Phillipsburg Herald, November 9, 1882)


WILLIS-- Alfred John Willis was born September 26, 1903, in Phillips County, to George Alfred and Alice Wyrill Wills. He married Erma Lala on May 17, 1930. He was preceded in death by his father, in 1929 and his brother Allen, who died at age 16 years. He is survived by his wife; his mother; a son, Richard (Virginia) Willis; two daughters, Mary Ellen (Jerry) Boland and Lenore (Dight) House; and five grandchildren, Roger and Rodney Boland and Martha, Thomas and Jennifer House. Funeral services were in Kensington, Friday, May 12, with burial in Kirwin Cemetery. (abstract of undated clipping) [to see a copy of the original obit, please go here] Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS-- Pioneer resident Alice Willis died March 27. She was born Jan. 10, 1877, to William and Sarah Hinds Wyrill, on the family homestead northwest of Kirwin. She was the only graduate of 1904 from Kirwin High School, and taught until her marriage to Fred Willis on June 17, 1900. To this union two sons, Alan Grant, who died in 1924, and Alfred John, who died in 1967, were born. After the death of her husband in 1929, she moved into Kirwin. Besides her husband and sons, she was preceded in death by her sisters, Olive Gray and Pearl Wyrill, and her brothers, John B. Wyrill and Albert Wyrill, who died at age 7 during a diphtheria epidemic, as well as two who died in infancy. She is survived by her daughter-in-law Erma Lala Willis; three grandchildren, Richard (Virginia) Willis of Phillipsburg; Maryellen (Jerry) Boland of Alton; and Leonore (Dight) House of McCracken; seven great-grandchildren and a sister-in-law, Angie Wyrill. Services were held March 30, with interment in the Kirwin Cemetery. (abstract of undated clipping)
[to see a copy of the original obit, please go here] Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS-- Mrs. Annie M. Willis, wife of George Willis and daughter of Henry and Phoebe Cook, died on April 27, 1889.

Mrs. Willis was born in Illinois near where Bloomington now is, November 14, 1843. Her parents moved to Ohio where she grew into womanhood. They then moved to Iowa and settled in Iowa County near Williamsburg. She was married to G. W. Willis April 28, 1864; the anniversary of her wedding was the day of her burial. She united with the church 23 years ago and was always true to her profession. With her husband she came to Kansas 10 years ago and took land in Phillips County. She united with the First Congregational Church of Kirwin soon after moving into Kirwin Township. She was a faithful wife, a kind mother and a dutiful Christian. She praised the intellectual and moral culture of her children more than silver or gold. She leaves a husband and eleven children, 7 boys and 4 girls, to mourn their loss. Mrs. Willis was loved and respected by all. In her death the church and community sustain a loss which can never be made up.

The funeral services were held at her late residence and was largely attended by sympathizing friends. Rev. R. F. Markham officiated at the funeral services and made appropriate remarks for one who was tired and leaned her head on Jesus’ breast and sleeps and will awake in Heaven. (undated clipping) Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS--Fred G. Willis passed away at his home March 23, 1929. He was born Dec. 25, 1869 in Marengo, Iowa, and had been a resident of Phillips County since 1882. He married Alice Wyrill in 1900. Their union was blessed with two sons, Alfred John and Alan Grant. His son, Alan, preceded him in death in 1916. He is survived by his wife, his son, a sister and three brothers. Services were held at the Congregational Church on Sunday, with interment in the Kirwin Cemetery. (abstract, undated clipping)
[to see a copy of the original obit, please go here] Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!



St. Andrew by the Sea United Methodist Church
Hilton Head Island, SC
February 26, 1985

Son of Ulysses S. Grant Willis and Grace Brewer Willis
Born July 14, 1915, in Kirwin, KS
Died February 24, 1985, in Hilton Head Island, SC
Married Marjorie Fallon October 16, 1937, in Beatrice, NE
Remarried June Waldron Beach Harris January 21, 1973 in Bristol, CT
Brothers: Morris Brewer Willis and Warren Wesley Willis.
Sisters: Jane Willis Swartz and Ann Willis Gaumer Dimond
Children: John Noble Willis and Barbara K. Willis Anderson

We have gathered in this holy place at this particular hour to remember…to lovingly remember… the life of (Grant) Noble Willis.

Each one of us in our own way remembers the good experiences shared with Noble as a result of belonging to his family and circle of friends. The work and the service and the recreation and the laughter shared with him are vivid, comforting thoughts.

He has been described as a “great guy” by his wife and that will be remembered. But also Noble will be remembered for the courage and patience and endurance that graced his life during his long illness and struggle.

I’m sure that many of you will remember Noble as a man who fixed things for you. He had a workshop in his home where he spent many, many hours not doing things just for himself, but also for other people. What a lovely trait to have – fixing things, taking care of things for others.

It is appropriate at this time that we understand that God through Jesus Christ takes care of us – that He indeed “fixes things” for His children. We know that God takes care of us because of some of the precious promises He makes to His people.

He promises protection: “He shall give His angels charge over thee.”In Hebrews He promises rest to His children: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”Look at how our God “fixes” us or cares for us through blessed sleep: “When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yes, thou salt lie down and thy sleep shall be sweet.”And then in the toughest valley of all, the valley of the shadow of death, God takes care of us through the joy of life eternal: “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.” Isiah 25 says it this magnificent way: “He will swallow up death in victory.”So – we thank God for the life of a “great guy,” one who spent a lot of time “fixing things” for others. And we are especially thankful for our Lord God who looks after His children, who fixes things for us, yea, for Noble Willis, even to the extent of leading us through the valley of the shadow of death into life eternal. God does this for Noble and all of us.

This is our faith and peace and comfort in this hour and forever more.

Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS--Obituary of George W. Willis

We are again called upon to record the death of one of our oldest settlers in this locality.

George W. Willis was born in Exeter, Devonshire, England, January 24, 1836, and spent his youth near Torrington. He came to the United States at the age of 17 and for two years worked in the machine shops in Cleveland, Ohio.

He then moved to Marengo, Iowa, and after spending some time in school, enlisted in the Army Second Iowa Cavalry and served his adopted country honorably and well for four years and three months. A part of the time he was a bugler for his Regiment.

While home on furlough, on April 28, 1864, he was married to Annie Melvina Cook, in Williamsburg, Iowa, and returned to the Army on a special detail. After the close of the war, he and his family lived at Williamsburg until 1879, when they moved to Kansas which has since been his home. Here in Phillips County they have lived all these years; and the influence of Mr. Willis, through his large and influential family, has been and will continue to be felt by a large circle of people. During the fat years and the lean years he stayed and became one of our honored and substantial citizens, always standing for the things which were good for the community and the state. During his life at Kirwin, he was associated with the Kirwin Congregational Church and for years served faithfully as Superintendent of the Sunday School and as Choir Leader. The early home training of his father and mother are evident in the lives and characters of the individual members of the family surviving him.

Eleven children, four girls and seven sons, were born to this family. Of these, two girls and five boys still survive (as of 1912): Mrs. R. D. Morse and Mr. J. A,. Stagg and Messrs. Fred, Grant, Thomas, Garnett and Paul Willis. All but Garnett, who was working at Midfield, Texas, were present at the death and burial of their father.

The mother, Annie Melvina Cook Willis, passed away on to her Reward in the Better Land on April 27, 1889.

On December 5, 1901, Mr, Willis was married to Mrs. Julia W. Strout who still survives and mourns his departure.

Death occured at the home of his daughter, Mrs. J. A. Stagg, on Monday morning, April 1, 1912. The funeral was conducted by Reverend Fred Roys Bush at the Stagg home, and the interment was made in the Kirwin Cemetery. The casket was draped in the "Stars and Stripes," whose honor he spent over four years of the best part of his life defending.

The community extends Sympathy

“He is only gone before." (The Kirwin Kansan) Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS--Mrs. Grace Willis Dies

Mrs. Grace Willis, former Decatur County Welfare Director, was stricken with a fatal heart attack, Thursday, February 27 (1958). She and Mrs. Chris Rasmussen of McCook had attended a Rotary dinner at Trenton, Nebraska, and were at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Truman in Trenton, when she complained of not feeling well. A doctor was called, but she passed away in a short time.

Grace Brewer was born to Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Brewer at Abilene, Kansas, February 13, 1889. She graduated from Washburn University of Topeka.

She was united in marriage to Grant Willis at Abilene, January 1, 1912, and they moved to Kirwin. Five children were born to this union. The three sons and one son-in-law are engineers and the other son-in-law is a high school science teacher. Mr. Willis preceded her in death in 1939.

She attended Fort Hays State Teachers College, 1941-42 and served as case worker in Phillips County, 1934-36 and in Rooks County, 1940-41.

Coming to Oberlin June 1, 1942, she served as case worker until July 1, 1945, when she became director until her retirement July 1, 1956.

During this time, she was an avid worker for an old people’s home and did a great deal towards establishing the Decatur County Home.

She built a new home at 504 North York and continued to make Oberlin her home after her retirement. One of her joys was a Hammond organ at which she spent many hours. She had traveled a great deal, also.

She was a member of the Oberlin Presbyterian Church and the J.C.C. Club.

Funeral services were conducted by Rev. Robert Clingan of the Federated Church at the Presbyterian Church, Monday morning. Interment was at the Kirwin cemetery, beside her husband.

She is survived by five children, Mrs. Jane Swartz of Worland, Wyoming; Noble Willis, Bristol, Connecticut; Morris Willis, Chillicothe, Missouri; Mrs. Annabelle Gaumer, Houston, Texas; and Warren Willis of Marshalltown, Iowa. (unknown, undated paper) Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS-- Morris B. Willis, age 80, a resident of Chillicothe, Missouri, passed away at the Boone Medical Center, Columbia, Missouri, on Thursday, October 16, 1997. He was born on April 2, 1917, the son of Ulysses S. Grant and Grace Brewer Willis in Kirwin, Kansas. He attended the Kirwin farm school from first grade until senior high. The school later became known as the Willis School. He graduated from the Kansas State University in 1939 with a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. On July 11, 1942, he married Forrest Lanier in Camp Davis, North Carolina. Morris was a Major in the United States Army during World War II. He became one of the first people to teach Radar Training to the Army Corp. Morris moved to Chillicothe in I950fiom Iola, Kansas. In 1953 he became a partner with John Irvin in the Irvinbilt Company until his retirement in 1982. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Chillicothe, Missouri. He was a past president of the Chillicothe Country Club. He enjoyed his Tennessee Walking horses and he loved fishing. Morris had a passion for farming. Morris is survived by his wife, Forrest, Chillicothe, Missouri, two sons, Robert Willis and daughter-in-law Peggie, Rolla, Missouri, Darryl Willis and daughter-in-law Tish, Holliston, Massachusetts, one brother, Warren W. Willis, Pharr, Texas, two sisters, Jane Swartz, Denver, Colorado, Ann Diamond, Mathews, North Carolina, five grandchildren, Robin and Erin Willis, Rolla, Missouri, Andy Willis, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mark Willis and Chris Willis, Holliston, Massachusetts. He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother, Nobel Willis. [to see a copy of the funeral card, please go here] Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WILLIS--Ulysses Simpson Grant Willis was born March 24, 1878 at Marengo, Iowa, to George W. and Annie Cook Willis. When he was one year old the family removed to Kansas, remaining a short time and returning to Iowa. As a boy the family returned to Kansas, moving to near Kirwin.

He graduated from Kirwin High School, and after farming a few years, he attended Washburn University. While at college, he met Grace Brewer and they were married January 1, 1912. After graduation he returned to farming and the couple were blessed with five children: Jane Swartz, of Plainville; Grant Noble Willis, of Seminole, Texas; Morris Brewer Willis, of Manhattan; Anna Belle Gaumer of Kingfisher, Oklahoma; and Warren Wesley Willis, of the home.

Mr. Willis died August 14, 1939 and is survived by his wife; his children; a sister, Mrs. Ruby Stagg; two brothers, Thomas and Paul Willis; one granddaughter, Mary Grace Swartz; twelve nieces and nephews and other friends and relatives, to mourn his loss. Funeral services were held August 17 at the Methodist Church in Kirwin, with burial in the Kirwin Cemetery. (abstract, The Kirwin Kansan, August 24, 1939)
[to see a copy of the original obit, please go here] Contributed by Janet Willis Weidner--thanks!


WORLEY--Died, Sunday morning Nov. 5th, 1882, Myrta May Worley, daughter of Henry and Julia E. Worley, of Marvin, Kansas. Deceased was a bright little girl of eight years and her loss is sorely felt in the family circle as well as in the community. Her disease was typhoid pneumonia and we learn that several others of the family have suffered from the same disease, but it is now hoped that all are convalescent. Elder H. G. Breed preached the fun eral sermon Sunday evening. The afflicted family have the sympathy of all. (Phillipsburg Herald, November 9, 1882)


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