Born LaWillia Fern Eaton, the sixth of eight children, she was born to Tom and Nelle Eaton on February 19, 1929, in Leedey, Oklahoma. She was raised on a simple farm tending cattle and riding horses and attended a one-room schoolhouse. Feeding chicken and raising corn, she developed a love for all things and people, which would only grow with each experience in her 93 years.
She lost her father at thirteen, and the family moved to Richmond, California, so her mother could find work. Her brothers loved to dance and would take their little sister along. At one such dance, she met the love of her life, Joseph Eugene Thomas, a sailor from New York.
The two married in Oakland, California, on December 15, 1946, and began their great adventure together. They danced from Oakland, California, to Sunnyvale, California. From there, to Hawaii, and across the country to Jacksonville, Florida, and Brunswick, Georgia. In 1962, Joseph retired from the Navy and moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work at North America Rockwell. By that time, they had created eight new traveling companions.
LaWillia was active in many organizations, such as the Navy Fleet Reserve, neighborhood watch president, and sunbeam appliances demonstrator.
LaWillia created a circle of friends she kept her entire life. Her Christmas Card list consisted of at least 300 cards, including friends from school, relatives, and neighbors from everywhere she lived! She knew the first person she had ever met and kept in touch. Everyone loved her. She just touched people on a personal level. She never met a stranger, remembered a wrong, and always saw passed our faults. She invited people into her life! Playing cards, serving dinner, and welcoming everyone always to visit!
She also lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, Hardeeville, South Carolina, and Palm Bay, Florida. In 1983, Joseph and LaWillia bought a home they shared the rest of their lives in Lady Lake, Florida.
After retirement, “Joe and Lou” traveled in their R.V. across America many times. They even ventured to Alaska. In addition, they traveled to Italy, Rome (saw the Pope), Germany, and Antiqua. Everywhere she went, she collected flowers, rocks, and people.
“Do onto others as you want done onto you!” was her favorite advice given by her mother.
Joseph and LaWillia were separated by the death of her husband of 63 years, the only man in her life! Lawillia’s seven siblings preceded her in death: Lillie Mearl, Francis, Mountie, Alvin (Shorty), Velta, Flora Mea, and Leo. She is survived by seven of her eight children; Patrick Thomas, Joyce Smith, Virginia Walker (deceased), Cathy Medina, James Thomas, Nelle Handy, Chris Thomas, Teri Sue Barnett, 22 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great Grands! and many more she claimed, too many to count!
LaWillia loved and was loved by everyone she met and will be missed by all. Services will be held at Bushnell National Cemetery, Bushnell, Florida, at 1:00 p.m. on December 20, 2022. Arrangements entrusted with BALDWIN BROTHERS Funeral & Cremation Society-Spanish Springs, 352-480-5959. Sentiments are encouraged at www.baldwincremation.com.