A life well spent, surrounded by love
John Paul Willems was born in London, Ohio to Lawrence and Blanche (Coar) Willems on February 1, 1941. He joined the Navy at 17, without a high school diploma and was commissioned in 1973. He received his undergraduate degree in Systems Management from George Washington University and Master of Hospital Administration from USC.
He retired in 1986, as a Lieutenant Commander in the Medical Service Corps. while stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. During his 28-year career with the Navy, he was stationed in Japan and throughout the U.S.
John was a jack-of-all-trades and could whip up anything you wanted in his workshop. After his retirement from the Navy, he built a log house in Virginia, went to a trade school and became a farrier in Wisconsin, worked as an administrator at Oakridge Care Center, Lewis Homes, and the Sierra Nevada Job Corp. His last job was with the Reno Police Department as a parking enforcement officer.
John, a master skipper, loved the wind—his sailboats came in all sizes and he enjoyed them all. His first boat was a 20-footer named “Apogee,” which he sailed out of Oceanside, California. No matter where he lived in the world he always found time to sail. His last boat, a 25-foot O’Day called “Daydream” was moored along the Columbia River at the Longview Yacht Club. If he was not sailing, he was kayaking or biking with his close friend Dan O’Hall. Earlier in life, he raced the wind with motorcycles. As he matured, he upgraded, he loved zipping around in his little red 1991 Miata and later in his 2013 silver Miata.
In 2003, John and Geri moved to the Pacific Northwest, an area of the country he has always admired since being stationed here in his twenties. John always had a smile on his face and found time to chat with friends, as well as total strangers. He often wore a Navy baseball cap, which helped to start conversations with other veterans. Over the years, he invested time in his community, serving as a fireman for the Rochester Fire Department and in more recent years helping at St. Vincent de Paul, where he spent many hours distributing food to those in need. John was devoted to the Lord every day of his life and a member of St. Rose Church.
John is survived by his wife of 53 years, Geraldine Enos Willems of Longview, daughters Christine Grubbs of Longview, Deborah Willems and Charlie Powell of Jacksonville, Florida, Jennifer and Don de Wilde-Willems of the Netherlands and grandchildren Matthew and Rebekah Grubbs of Longview. He is also survived by his sister, Mary Hamline of Lincoln, Missouri and brother,
Lawrence Willems of Longview. Preceding him in death was his brother, William Willems and sister, Frances Vanderfin.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to St. Vincent de Paul, PO Box 2975, 1222 Baltimore St., Longview, WA 98632.