Hugh Hiter Willis, Jr. ’40

Hugh Hiter Willis, Jr. ’40, of Penhook, Va., died peacefully Feb. 17 at CareSource Hospice in Salt Lake City, Utah, following complications of a stroke. Dr. Willis was born into a farming family and raised in Culpeper, Va. He attended Davidson for three years, but dropped out when family money became scarce. He later finished his undergraduate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a communications officer on a destroyer in the North Atlantic and off North Africa, and later as a fighter pilot in the Pacific and in Japan. After military service, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in Philadelphia and completed his internship at Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Willis moved to Chatham, Va., in 1952 to practice medicine with his sister, Dr. Betty Whitehead, and her husband, Dr. Cary Whitehead. He retired at age 79. With his first wife, Mary Eleanor “Meg” Gassaway Willis, Dr. Willis raised four children. Meg died of cancer in 1969. Dr. Willis’ greatest passion was for competitive sailboat racing. He enjoyed the beach and spent many happy hours crabbing with his young children in the Chesapeake Bay and surf casting or deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. He also loved gardening and dancing. In 2002, Dr. Willis moved from Chatham to his beloved cottage at Smith Mountain Lake, where he enjoyed boating, bird-watching, gardening, reading in front of a roaring fire, and tinkering in his workshop. He was especially fond of visits from and trips to visit his children and grandchildren. In January 2008, Dr. Willis moved to a residential facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is described as a humble, gentle, and kind man who was highly respected in the community. He was a member and past president of the Danville-Pittsylvania Academy of Medicine, a member of the American Medical Association, a founding member and past commodore of the Virginia Inland Sailing Association, and a supporter and assistant Scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts of America. He is survived by his second wife, Juanita Hughes Willis, who resides in a nursing home in Durham, N.C.; his sisters, Dr. Betty Whitehead and Alice Mease; his son, Hugh Willis III, 503 Edney Ridge Rd., Greensboro, NC 27408; his son Gerrish; his daughters, Sally Willis and Nell Twining; his step-daughters, Nita Gay Gladstone and Sarah Ford Bryson; 12 grandchildren and step-grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.