John Francis Willey, 75, went home to Heaven to receive the hug from God the Father his granddaughter, Lillian Grace, had prayed for Him to give from her when he arrived.
He was under Legacy Hospice care with his wife, Cassie, at his side on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, when he transitioned to Heaven. The care he received at PBRMC rehab therapists and fifth-floor nursing care were so encouraging and compassionate.
John was born Jan. 22, 1945, to Alice Heffernan and Clarence B. Willey in Springfield, Missouri. Having lived in several Midwest homes since his father was an insurance adjuster, John finally lived with his parents in Kansas City, where he was continuing his education.
He met John Quinn the Irish twin of Cassie in the summer of 1966. She was hoping her brother would finally bring someone home, and the relationship blossomed.
From August 1966 to August 1969, he trained as a communications specialist for the U.S. Army. He served in Vietnam September 1967-68. During his last year, he made public relations photographs for a military unit. He was honorably discharged at the rank of specialist 5/E5.
John worked as a staff photographer at The Examiner in Independence, Missouri. From September 1969 to June 1970, he worked at The Kansas City Times. He held several jobs as a freelance photographer and as the camera department manager at Gateway Sporting Goods in Kansas City.
On Aug. 12, 1972, Cassie and John married at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Kansas City. Their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was born the next spring.
John used his GI bill to further his education receiving an associate’s degree from Penn Valley Community College in August of 1973. He earned his bachelor of science degree in journalism from the University of Kansas in August 1975, with an emphasis on photojournalism.
His first job after graduation was at The Daily Herald in Plainview, Texas, where he earned several awards for his photography. One of the awards was from the Associated Press for first place for spot news photo.
In December 1977, daughter, Alicia Ann, was added to the family.
Being 13 hours from home, John put out resumes for Missouri newspapers and landed a job in Poplar Bluff in 1979 at the Daily American Republic.
Nine months later, our first son, Matthew, was born on New Year’s Eve. John had always been on the cop beat over the years and finally gave in by becoming a Butler County road deputy under Sheriff Link and Sheriff Heaton from 1983 to 1986.
Their third daughter, Bernadette, was born in 1983 and son, Mark, in 1985.
In 1986, John put out resumes to go back to his first love, newspaper work, and was hired by The Journal, a Wednesday weekly paper that covered a lot of Butler County. As editor there, he enjoyed writing human interest stories about the area.
Well, the paper did so well selling ads that they added a Sunday paper.
In 1990, The Journal owners, Don Schreiber and Gary Rust Sr. , bought the DAR from Woodward Communications, and John was back where he started.
He was the news editor for a while and was able to write stories about individuals or businesses in the area. However, John was always helping anyone with computer glitches and became the computer systems administrator for the DAR, The Puxico Press, and The Prospect-News at Doiphan.
Starting in 2005, John had health issues that slowed him down a bit. Later, he was back helping with business articles and writing obituaries. Finally in 2013, his health prevented him from continuing.
He was able to pursue his love for O-Gauge model trains, remodeling their home, building an oak china cabinet, then having a workshop built to further his hobbies. Traveling to visit his children in St. Louis and Pennsylvania were a highlight in his retirement.
John loved his church family at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. His faith helped him to deal with these last health issues, starting in January of 2020.
He leaves his wife, Cassie Ann of the home; his daughters, Elizabeth (Robert Guthrie) of St. Louis, Alicia (John Schap) York, Pennslyvania, Bernadette (Owen Mulholland) Astoria, New York, and sons, Matthew Willey (Maria Adams) and Mark Willey (Claire Bettale), all of St. Louis. He also leaves his delightful granddaughter, Lillian Grace Schap, who shared his love for trains, Johnny Cash and the family dog, Daisy.
He also leaves his sister, Sharon Willey, and his brother Steve Willey and wife, Leslie, all of Columbia, Missouri. He also leaves a brother-in-law and sisters-in-law and spouses, and nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.
His parents, Alice and Clarence Willey, nephew, John Michael Willey, niece, Carolyn Quinn Bernhardy and brother-in-law, John C. Quinn III, preceded him to Heaven.
Please wear masks and practice social distancing at all the gatherings. Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, at Cotrell Funeral Service. Prayer service will begin at around 6:30 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart Church, followed by burial at Sacred Heart Cemetery. The mass will be for family only.
“I just wish this COVID pandemic wasn’t requiring all these safety measures. Love to all who have reached out to all of us. We’re so blessed with family and friends,” submitted by wife Cassie Willey
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