Long-time Alaskan and former legislator Edward C. Willis died Oct. 8, 2018. He was 94.
A member of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough Assembly, he was elected to the Alaska State Senate in 1974 and served for one term. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and served two terms.
Moving to Alaska from Barstow, Calif., in 1949, Willis was employed at the Ft. Richardson power plant. He moved with his wife and children to Eagle River in 1955 and became active with the Parent-Teacher Association at the new Eagle River Elementary School. Seeing the need for a secondary school in Chugiak-Eagle River, he helped form Operation Chugiak High School and lobbied successfully to end bussing of students to Anchorage. The school opened in 1964, with Gov. William A. Egan dedicating the school to the people who worked in its behalf.
Willis built a widely respected reputation by studying issues and offering well-thought-out arguments to gain agreement from colleagues of all political persuasions. He was never heard to make derogatory statements about another individual, always finding something positive to say.
When his daughter Linda was born with disabilities, Willis took a strong stand to gain special education classes in Anchorage schools. In 1957, he was one of the founders of The Arc of Anchorage. It is a chapter of a national organization that fought for the rights of children with disabilities to live at home rather than an institution and to go to public school.
An opponent of unification of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough and cities within its borders, he helped form Rural 30, an organization with members from each precinct outside Anchorage. Willis believed that rural areas needed fewer services than those in more developed portions of the municipality. The charter which passed on its third try in 1975 included many of Willis’ provisions designed to protect the rights of residents. Among those are clauses that allow individual service areas with services and tax rates as determined by people who live within the district.
Retiring from public office, Willis and his wife Joyce moved from their Eagle River home to the Palmer Veterans Home. He was a World War II veteran, having served in the Merchant Marine as an engineer on many hazardous crossings of the Pacific.
Willis was born Nov. 29, 1923, in Barstow, Calif., the son of Charles Brice Willis and Mary Willis. He was preceded in death by his parents, by his wife of 64 years, Joyce, his son, Steve, and his daughter Linda. He is survived by his sons Rodney and wife Linda of Eagle River, Charlie and wife Robin of Anacortes, Wash., and daughter Marla and Jesse Griffin of Deltona, Fla.
A memorial service will be held at the Palmer Pioneer and Veterans Home at a time to be announced later.