Howard Lee Willis

  • Born: September 26, 1935
  • Died: February 13, 2019
  • Location: Austin, Texas

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
Tel. (512) 452-8811

Tribute & Message From The Family

As he slept on February 13, 2019, Howard Lee Willis crossed peacefully into God's loving arms. He was 83. Born on September 26, 1935 to Earl Howard and JoNell Stroud Willis, Howard had one brother, Don Glen Zachary (Deceased). Howard met his wife, Pat O'Neal Willis, when he was a student at San Angelo State College in 1956. They married on August 31, 1958, and were partners in life, love and learning. Howard and Pat have one son, their beloved Lee Howard Willis and daughter-in-law, Beverly Willis.

Howard, better known as "Wildcat" by his friends, was a man's man. Even though he spent his successful business career at the American Statesman, he was also a cowboy, sportsman, and artist.

He loved his horses, cows, and held a kindness toward all animals. He was also a man of many interests and was competitive at everything he did. He was an avid weight lifter, golfer, bicyclist and motorcyclist.

Howard's varied interests led him to photography and he became a professional photographer. Howard was a true friend and mentor to many. His heart of gold deeply touched many people. One of his basic philosophies was not to look at people based on where they are, but on how far they had to travel to get there. That ability made him a unique individual. He will be deeply missed by his family and a legion of friends.

On his bedroom wall hangs the following motto: "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways and totally worn out, shouting, 'Wow,' what a ride!"

Condolence & Memory Journal

I was blessed to have met Mr. Willis and remember him showing me a few of his muscle cars , I believe a Jaguar was one of his conversion projects. He seemed to be a person that exudes "If you are going to do something do it right" I know he will be missed by many. God speed Mr. Willis.

Posted by wayne samson - austin, TX - Family Friend   March 25, 2019

It was with great sadness that I learned of Howard's passing. I first met him when I interviewed with him in 1980 for an internship position with the American-Statesman. While I still had another 2 years left at SWT, we stayed in touch. He was my professional go-to person during my term as Advertising Director with the University Star and always was willing to participate in my college endeavors such as judging advertising contests for the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association during my time as Student Contest Director for that organization. At one point, I was considering working for an agency after graduation and he jokingly told me if I did that he didn't want anything more to do with me because the newspaper was where I needed to be. Upon my graduation in 1982, he hired me again, this time as a full time advertising representative at the Statesman. He was a great mentor as well as boss, praising me when I did well and letting me know when I could do better. He was a steady presence during most of my 30 years with the Statesman. While he retired before the end of my career there, he left a lasting impression. It was an honor to know him and he will be missed by many. My thoughts go out to his family. Rest in Peace, Howard.

Posted by Kelly Kilgore - Cedar Park, TX - Coworker   March 13, 2019

March 8, 2019

Lost my great friend and mentor Howard Willis. Howard hired me at the American-Statesman in late 1981..changed my life. Jordan had just turned one and Shannon was 5. Howard was a powerful presence and having him let me in to be his friend over the years was an incredible blessing. He promoted me to Retail Sales Manager in 1985...the first female in that position at the paper. You see he believed in equal rights for all in all areas.. I'm sure Pat had a lot to do with that. Howard loved a good, funny conversation and his shoulders would shake with laughter..especially around Dan Savage, Harold Cline and George Spaulding. I will always remember him as someone who made me a professional business person and a better person overall. Howard would often have a sort of gruff demeanor but he also had a heart of gold. He was bold, smart, unrelenting, and loving. And he was an outstanding photographer. Golf was his great love and great nemesis....from funny stories to frustrating was a part of the man. As were motorcycles, fast cars, and eating BBQ in Lockhart on a Friday afternoon. He loved his family and talked about Pat and Lee in such endearing terms. Just a handful of inspiring people in my life...Howard is definitely one of the tops of that list. Hard worker...yes sir...but he balanced that with play whether it be one of his usually risk taking hobbies or a delicious lunch at Pappadeaux with close friends.

Howard was an intragal part of the growth of the American-Statesman and became a legend in the advertising department. At his early Statesman retirement party (held in the giant press room at the paper)....I presented him with a display box that contained a 1935 (his birth year) nickel. The engraving said something like Howard Lee Willis..much more than a nickel's worth of difference. Love, Teri. You see he had always teased me when I would complain about having to work around certain men or even a disagreement I had had with a close male

Posted by Teri Maxwell - Bastrop, TX - Friend   March 11, 2019

I can't imagine where my life would have taken me if Howard "Wildcat" Willis had not hired me at the American-Statesman in 1980. Little did I know that his decision at that time would open the door to a lifetime career with Cox and a 39 year friendship with the best friend I could ever have. Howard and I bonded immediately and soon realized that we had much more in common than just advertising sales. His passion for golf, motorcycles and huge steaks at Hoffbrau were some of our common denominators. One of his many admirable qualities was his full-time competitive nature. He made everyone around him better. One month before Howard slipped away he was talking about buying another motorcycle and taking one last trip with me to Colorado. I was all in. I never learned how to say no to Howard. I miss you my friend and will see you on the other side.

Posted by Dan Savage - Waco, TX - Friend   March 10, 2019

I was so sorry to see the notice of Howard's death. It has been an honor and joy to know Howard, Pat and Lee.
Karen Faulkner

Posted by Karen Faulkner - Leander, TX - Friend   March 08, 2019

How saddened I am to hear of Howard's passing. My sincere condolences to Pat and Lee who I know were the center of his life. I first met Howard in 1961 at the American-Statesman and he was one of the best friends I have ever had. The obituary described a motto hanging on his bedroom wall described Howard perfectly..."Wow, what a ride!" In the early 60s, Howard and I would lift weights together in his "man cave" he built in the back yard. Of course, he really lifted most of the weights but was always encouraging me to lift more. We had a lot of fun. I haven't seen or talked with him in many years and that's my loss, because he was a great guy who worked hard and enjoyed life and made a positive impact on my life. He was as we say in Texas, "good people." Rest in peace, Howard Lee!

Posted by Tom Faulkner - LEANDER, TX - Friend   March 08, 2019

Howard Willis was the first real boss I had after my father, and he was a very good boss, and one of the nicest men I ever worked for. He taught me it was okay to fail as long as you didn't stop trying. If I listened to him I would probably have gone even further and higher, but he did manage to make we want to know more about the advertising and sales business. You can't be in advertising without being a little creative, and he always appreciated creativity in all things. Rest in peace and I pray that the love you gave your family continues on. Jesse Casarez

Posted by Jesse Casarez - Austin, TX - Coworker   March 07, 2019

The scary screech of locked-up motorcycle tires comes to mind first whenever I think of Howard Lee Willis.
That's Wildcat, I thought. He's going to slam into me and we're both going to fly off the side of this mountain.
No harm, no foul. Just another good Wildcat memory.
We worked together for many years at the Austin American-Statesman. Howard always had a good sense of humor and a good attitude about life. He was a good friend.
Happy trails, Wildcat. Rowland Nethaway

Posted by Rowland Nethaway - Waco, TX - Friend   March 05, 2019

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