Jack Willis, 69, of Ely, MN dies

Tough Yet Gentle - Jack Willis, 69, of Ely, MN passed away on August 3, 2017. Beloved father, husband, brother, uncle, neighbor, co-worker and friend, Jack was born March 16, 1948 in East Orange, NJ to George and Bertine Willis. Serious and focused as a child, he developed a work ethic that never faltered.  He graduated from Rivers Country Day School (Massachusetts) in 1966 and attended both Paul Smith College (New York) and Prescott College (Arizona). He went on to become a jack of all trades in Ely for the past 50 years.
Admired by many as diligent and tenacious, Jack worked for the Northshore Mine, as a self-employed logger, and for Voyageur Outward Bound. He completed a course with Outward Bound in 1966 and went on to work for the Voyageur Outward Bound School in Ely, MN on and off over his lifetime; serving as an instructor, Course Director, Associate Program Director and Site Manager. Through his tenure, he became a legend and left a far reaching legacy of service and kindness with countless staff and students. His irrepressible spirit, big smile and wry humor will be sorely missed.
An exemplary community citizen, Jack took an active leadership role in various civic and school organizations; including coaching Little League, serving on the Little League board and helping with the grounds keeping at the Ely football and Little League fields for years. He served one term for the Town of Morse Board.  Balancing his hard work and pragmatism, he lived by his family motto “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Jack was a lifelong learner, ever curious about the world around him. He possessed an indefatigable spirit that pulled him through any hurdle. We will always remember him as kind, smiling, generous and funny; he was a man who was content with himself, his life, and his family.
We are all feeling the tremendous loss of a tough yet gentle soul. He is survived by his wife Kathleen (Kate) Willis of Ely; three sons: Tyler Willis (and Melanie) of Island Pond, VT, Ryan Willis of Ely and Jeffrey Willis of Ely. He is also survived by two siblings; Tina Slosberg (Ken) of (Santa Cruz, CA); Tim Willis (Robin) of (Randolph, VA), sister in law, Nancy Willis of (Mt Vernon, OH); and three nephews and four nieces. Proceeded in death by twin brother; Jeff Willis and parents; George and Bertine Willis.
A memorial service will be held on September 23, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. at the Voyageur Outward Bound School, 1007 Spruce Road, in Ely, MN, with reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, pay it forward through kindness and in deed. A scholarship will be established in his name at the Voyageur Outward Bound. Please send any money donations towards the scholarship (Voyageur Outward Bound School, 1007 Spruce Road Ely, MN 55731).