Willard was born January 16,1938 to William Elzia and Ruth Charlotte House Russell in Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, Iowa. His maternal grandmother, “Nina” upon seeing him for the first time said, “He looks like a Mickey Mouse.” thus most people have always known him as “Mick”. One of nine children, all predeceased except Donald (Linda) of Oskaloosa, IA.
Mick attended Brush Creek country school prior to schools in Oskaloosa with only one year of high school before entering the Navy in May 1955, serving on the USS Albemarle, a supply and repair ship that serviced airplanes primarily in Atlantic and around Cuba until Honorable Discharge January 1959. He later served in the Army with Honorable Discharge February 24,1976, as Specialist Five.
After returning to Oskaloosa, he married Darlene McCombs Hawk February 14, 1959, and four sons were born during their marriage: Michael Eugene, Steven Wayne, David and Jim. the latter two predeceased him. He went back working evenings as a NA, to attend college during the day. Despite having dyslexia, he had completed his GED, then using the GI Bill and by remembering the lectures was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts from William Penn College in Oskaloosa January 12, 1973. The college degree made him eligible for several advanced positions and he served as Chief, Educational Therapy until he retired at 55.
He had married Karen Frantz B December 11, 1971, and became the stepfather of her four children, LeeAnne, Amy, Christy (Tim) Dykstra of Pella, IA. and Shawn who predeceased him.
As a faithful member of Faith Baptist Church in Knoxville, he served in many ways including SS Superintendent and finally as custodian for 10 years. From entries in his Ryrie Bible, he recommitted his life March 19, 1985 with a goal to share the Good News with others.
After his second marriage of 32 years had dissolved, he married Joyce Maddy Banks Everhart November 7, 2004 and gained stepdaughter, Catherine (Sam) Nichols of N Myers, stepson, Terry Everhart of Des Moines, and stepdaughter, Beth (Greg) Murtha of Pleasant Hill, IA. Their belated honeymoon was two weeks on islands of Hawaii. While living in Florida, Mick loved sitting on the deck across from the golf course watching the players. Joyce introduced him to the pleasures of cruising which included Alaska and Buchert Gardens on Vancouver Island. They cruised annually in Caribbean visiting many different islands plus the unique Panama Canal. Mick lived to eat and enjoyed ordering eggs benedict and other specialties daily.
For the next twelve years they enjoyed semi-annual treks seeking various routes between their lake home in Knoxville Estates and three different homes in Village on the Greens. Spending six months at each allowed for seeing the variety that Florida affords besides endless days enjoying the Gulf. Mick being an artist, we enjoyed several trips each year to the John Ringling Art Museum with its traveling exhibits plus the Circus Museum, CadaZan and Crosley Home. They enjoyed a wide variety of activities from the Tristate Polo Match to Van Wezel, Asolo Theater to Opera in Sarasota plus the King Tut exhibit in Miami. With nearly annual trips to Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, or Utah or Wisconsin. Most trips south or return included initial time in Branson to enjoy the shows and sights. One trip was by way of Atlantic cruise to Azores where he’d been in the Navy, Majorca, Barcelona, Spain, Italy including time in Pisa, Venice, Milan and Rome for Mick to enjoy the art of the ages.
After selling their home in Iowa they moved to their condo on the Rubicon Canal in South Cape Coral, FL July 31, 2016, then moved to Heron’s Glen Golf Community, N Fort Myers August 2021.
In addition to the children and stepchildren previously listed, he had 18 grandchildren plus several spouses, 21 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandson.
Part of the personal memories.
He was a gifted artist in many media, oil, chalk, pencil, metal, or clay of which several won ribbons at the Marion County Fair. He also built a motorcycle which he enjoyed riding. His yard underwent many transformations as a playground building bike and go-cart trails, bridge, rustic rail fence, bird houses, fruit trees and hillsides which he covered with perennials. He loved fishing and taking boat rides on the lake and swinging on one of the two decks he built on the house he’d sided and roofed. One of his last joys was outfitting a huge teepee which he enjoyed drumming and dreaming Native American thoughts. A Mick of all trades. He also was known for his wicked impersonations of Elvis’ upper lip curl, Steve Martin singing King Tut, white mustached Gabby Hays, “Which way did they go, Roy? (Rogers) and wasted Foster Brooks. People always laughed at his subtle “Mickism” one liners. Mick played bass and sang in local band with VA peers.
Celebration of Life and Internment at Sarasota National Cemetery are planned for the future.