Cover photo for James Lee Willis's Obituary
James Lee Willis Profile Photo
1945 James Lee Willis 2024

James Lee Willis

March 21, 1945 — March 11, 2024


James Lee Willis, 78, of Sachse, Texas, passed away on March 11, 2024. He is survived by his wife, Deborah (Wehrle) Willis, their daughters and sons-in-law, Susan (Juan) Elizondo and Charon (Roy) Marden, and three grandchildren.

Jim was born March 21, 1945, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Grady Willis and  Dorothy (Martin) Willis. After graduating from Raytown High School, he went on to study journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He met Deborah Wehrle at Mizzou in 1963, and they wed in 1967. 

While at Mizzou, Jim joined the regionally popular St. John’s band as the drummer. The band reunited in 2017 for Jim and Debbie’s 50th wedding anniversary in Kansas City. Jim also played the guitar and was an avid music lover.

Jim joined the U.S. Army in 1968, serving as a Radio Mechanic in Augsburg, Germany, eventually receiving an honorable discharge. 

Jim returned to Missouri to study journalism at Mizzou and, after graduating, started his journalism career with The Associated Press. He reported for the news agency in Jefferson City before he was transferred to  Bismarck, North Dakota, where he covered both statewide and political news at the state capitol. He covered the closing of the nation’s only anti ballistic missile site, as well as the tribal elections after Wounded Knee between Russel Means and the BIA leader. He also covered the several national political conventions including the 1976 Reagan-Ford battle. After four years in Bismark, In 1977, The Associated Press transferred him to Jefferson City, Missouri as head of the A.P. bureau.

Jim later kicked off a career in politics, serving as Director of Communications for the Missouri State Senate and then Washington, D.C.-based Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota. He then transitioned to work in public relations at Fleishman-Hillard in St. Louis and later worked for United Healthcare. He retired in 2012. 


In addition to his career Jim enjoyed swimming, water skiing and boating. He participated in theatre, continued to play guitar and drums, and loved building model ships, Civil War battle scenes, and model train towns.


Jim will always be remembered for his sharp mind and wit and humorous, entertaining personality. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.


In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Paralyzed Veterans of America or the American Cancer Society.



To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Lee Willis, please visit our flower store.
In memory of James Lee Willis, please consider making a donation to one of the following charities:


Visits: 61

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree