VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Clifton Lenwood Willis, 96, passed away on Feb. 28, 2013, in Virginia Beach, VA. Clifton was born on July 10, 1917, in Atlantic, N.C.
He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939, along with five cousins from his hometown. During WWII, he served in the Atlantic, on the USCG Alexander Hamilton and in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters on the troop transport USS Wakefield. He was rescued by Icelandic fisherman when the Hamilton was torpedoed and sunk on Jan. 29, 1942. However, three of his cousins on the Hamilton with him did not survive.
Clifton was reassigned to the "lone wolf" transport (steamed without convoy protection) USS Wakefield carrying 5,000 troops to New Zealand, then troops from New York to Scotland. The USS Wakefield was destroyed by fire on Sept. 3, 1942, on its return voyage to New York, and was towed to the Boston Navy Yard for complete rebuilding.
After duty in Boston, Clifton spent the next six years on lighthouses off the New England Coast, served duty on a buoy tender, ICW navigation maintenance and the USS Campbell. He then served the remainder of his career at various Coast Guard facilities and lighthouses along Lakes Superior and Michigan. He retired in 1967, after 28 years service, as Chief Boatswain Mate and completed a second career in the Public Works Department at Naval Station Little Creek, Norfolk, VA.
Clifton met the greatest love of his life, Dorothy Mildred Oliver, at a USO dance in Boston, Mass. in 1942. "Dotty" preceded him in death on Apr. 14, 2000.
Also preceding him in death were his parents, Minnie Smith Willis Fulcher and William Monroe Willis; his stepfather, John Winfield Fulcher; his stepbrother Graham Fulcher.
During his life, Clifton belonged to several organizations including Freemasons, Shriners, VFW, DAV, and BPOE.
Clifton is survived by his sons Paul Clifton Willis, and his wife Nina, of Kissimmee, Florida and Keith Lenwood Willis, and his wife Susan, of Hancock; grandchildren Roziland McLeod of Benbrook, Tex. Kasey Willis, of Hancock, and Kristopher Willis and wife Lindsey of Hancock. He especially enjoyed his great granddaughter, Christina and great grandson, Michael, both of Benbrook, Tex.
Viewing was held in the Rosewood Kellum Funeral Home, Virginia Beach on Thursday, March 7th with funeral services held on Friday in the funeral home. He will be interred alongside his wife in Rosewood Memorial Park, Virginia Beach.
The family would like to thank Becky Maher Rollins and Ella Cooper of Becky's Helping Hand for taking care of our dad for the last fifteen years.
Friends may offer condolences at www.kellumfuneralhome.com.