John Pershing Willis, Jr was called home to Glory on March 7, 2021. He was born on October 20, 1939 in
Murfreesboro, TN to John Pershing Willis, Sr & Margaret Elizabeth Willis (Foster) the eldest of six children. John
or Peetie as he was known by family started school late but went on to graduate from Holloway High School in
Murfreesboro at the age of 16 and went on to earn a Bachelors and Master’s Degrees in Cultural Anthropology
from the University of Chicago.
After concluding his graduate studies which included extensive field work in Tanzania and Kenya, John met and
married the love of his life Jaquita M. Robinson in 1972. John was a lifelong educator who went on to teach
courses in African Studies and Cultural Anthropology while on the faculty at Grinnell College, Western Michigan
University and Oberlin College. After transitioning from the academy John remained an educator, but moved to
the field computers where he designed curriculums for children and adults along with selling educational
software and tools. In addition to being a devoted husband and father he was involved in several organizations
in both Oberlin and Lorain County including, Lorain County Alliance of Black School educators, Oberlin Black
Alliance for Progress and Oberlin African-American History & Genealogy Group to name a few.
He attended Rust United Methodist Church where he was involved serving in several capacities as serving as the
church historian, webmaster and he ran a computer program for children. His deep love of history led him to
conduct independent research on a variety of topics including history of the Rust UMC.
John was a true polymath as in his spare time, he liked to collect records, read, garden, paint, make wine, fish,
work on computers, conduct historical research and play cards. John peacefully transitioned while listening to
Jazz one of his favorite activities.
He was proceeded in death by his parents and his wife of 45 years. He is survived by his two children Dr. Leigh
A. Willis (Aliya) of Atlanta and Geneva E.A. Willis of Nashville, TN, two granddaughters Khalilah Wimbley and
Layla Willis; four Brothers Gerald Willis, Willie Willis (Evelyn), Margaret Singleton (Fred), Joseph Willis (Sheila),
Leland Willis (Shirley) as well as many loving extended family members and friends.
Given the Covid-19 pandemic and the families desire to follow CDC guidelines there will be no burial service.
There will be a private memorial at a later time.
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