Because we are friends on different social media platforms, a lot of you already know that my dad passed away unexpectedly last week. He had been sick, but none of us saw his death as happening so soon. He had an illness that they could never figure out, a broken back, and eventually went septic, and died of cardiac arrest.
Those of you who know me, know how much I loved and adored my dad. I try to be just like him because he is truly a superhero to me. Even better than Superman because Superman can’t jimmy-rig stuff or listen to you and give you sound advice.
Here, you can find the obituary I wrote for my dad. I’m pasting it in here, in case the link at Pine View Mortuary ever fails.
Richard Carroll Wills of St. George, Utah, was born on August 10, 1943 in Oakland, California to Nellie Irene Moody and Ray Orlin Munkers. His adoptive father was Wesley Nelson Wills. He was the second of three children to Nellie. Although every facet of his childhood was difficult, the resilience it required created a man with highest character and near superhuman strength.
While growing up on a dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, Rick’s oldest brother, Bill, was always praised for his intellect, so Rick decided he would be the hardest working. His momentum never stopped until his heart finally had nothing left to give. He died of cardiac arrest at 2:50 a.m. on August 25, 2016. Rick’s broken back was the last shred of physical evidence that he truly gave everything he could in service of his fellowman. God has called him home to get some rest, but one of Rick’s first questions upon arrival will most likely be, “Where can I start building a home?” He’ll work on it piece by piece, in between whatever else is needed, just as he did while serving as a Mormon Bishop in Carlsbad, California, where he and his wife raised their children.
Rick met his wife of 52 years, Sharon Elaine Hutcheson, in grade school and she became his high-school sweetheart and greatest love. No man ever possessed greater respect and honor for the mother of his children. They were wed in St. John’s Lutheran church in Sacramento, California, on November 18, 1963 and were later sealed for time and all eternity in the Oakland, California LDS temple.
Rick and Sharon knew from their start together that there were only two secrets of a happy life. First: love. They both have a tremendous knowledge of the love of God. Second: family. Their greatest newlywed desire was to have a large family, and it grew into their fullness of joy. They were never happier together than when they were surrounded by their 7 children, 38 grandchildren, and thousands of adopted children, for they loved all children like their own.
Rick started his adult life as a football player at Sacramento City College, but duty-bound, he joined the Marine Corps to serve in Vietnam as a crypto-typist. Later Rick worked as a California Highway Patrolman, a carpenter/foreman/general contractor, and ended his career in facilities management. Rick normally held two or three jobs to provide for his large family.
There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix with a stick of bubble gum and some duct tape. Known affectionately to his children as “McGyver,” Rick was a jack-of-all-trades, and master of most.
Rick is survived by his wife Sharon and their children: Erick Wills (Cami), Adam Wills (Annette), Shannon Nelson (Brett), Alice Gold (LeGrand), Sarah Bartlett (Josh), David Wills (Brooke), and Renee Sorenson (Erik), 38 grandchildren, as well as his brother Bill Wills (Jonnie), his sister Marilyn Kirkelie, Sharon’s brother Danny Hutcheson, sister Shirley Clukey (Dale) and many nieces and nephews. We expect he will be greeted on the other side by his grandson Braxton Wills, his parents, and his in-laws, John and Dorothy Hutcheson.
Services will be held Monday, August 29, 2016 at 11 a.m. at the Cotton Acres LDS chapel 2583 East 350 North, St. George, Utah 84790. Viewing at 9:30 a.m. prior to services.
In lieu of flowers, please consider passing on Dad’s legacy. Hug your neighbor. Love on some gang-members. Stop and help someone with their broken-down car. Look past people’s flaws. Listen and validate someone who is angry or sad. Give a stranger the shirt off your back. Compliment a co-worker on a job well done. Serve in your church. Mentor a child. Save a life. Always keep gum in your briefcase for your kids, and keep a camera handy to capture treasured moments. Adore your wife. Giving money is good, but more noble is giving of oneself.
Honoring his Creator by the way he lived was Rick’s greatest legacy.
Well, I want to say more about my dad here, and I’ve been searching for the right picture to share, but I can’t take much more time right now. Here is the last picture I took of my parents together when I helped out with hospital duty a few weeks ago. Even though dad was really sick, he still had that twinkle in his eye. It’s like a cross between Santa Claus and what I imagine is the light in the eyes of Jesus Christ.
I was really inconvenienced with this hospital stay as I had to cancel our only planned family vacation this summer. It turned out to be the BEST blessing of my entire life. And, I believe my dad is happy with the way it turned out, as his whole life was one inconvenient service after another resulting in wonderful relationships and a lot of joy.
Anyhow, I could talk a lot more about my dad, but I will save that for later. Right now, I am mostly worried for my mom. My parents were married for 52 years, and my mom will be lost without my dad. My mom isn’t so good at technology. In fact, my dad used to print off my blog posts and take them home for her to read. So, in the last 12 hours I decided that it’s my turn to take over that torch. My plan is to try and write my mom letters and mail them as often as possible. Here is my first letter.
Oh how I HATED to leave you yesterday. I cried the whole way home. My whole body was shaking with longing for you and dad. I had to pull it together for the last 40 minutes of the drive because LG just could not drive one more second.
As I cried and convulsed in the front seat of the van clutching a pillow, LG would reach over and rub my shoulder or hold my hand. I found myself squeezing his fingers like they were the only lifeline out of the drowning going on in my heart. And then I would cry harder thinking about you not having dad’s hand to hold anymore. I had to stop the thought from repeating over and over.
I forced my mind into a happier region. You on Sunday night, telling me and Shannon, Sarah, Renee, and Adam that it wouldn’t be the sex you would ever miss. It would be the touch of dad’s hand on your knee when he knew you were scared. The kiss on your forehead just to tell you he loved you. Him holding your hand. And I thought about how right you were. How much just a touch of a hand means. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my breaths. I thought of all the times dad held your hand and all the times he will do it again. I thought about him holding my hand and helping me through the mud in Alaska.
At one point, my hand felt small like I was eight years old again, and LG’s hand felt like the exact same size as dad’s, except LG’s was soft compared to dad’s, always rough. I reminisced that our family was sitting on the front pew at church. Dad always played a game to calm my boredom. He would let me bite down on his hand as hard as I could muster. No matter how much muscle I could amass from my jaw, he would never even flinch. His skin always tasted like a mixture of engine oil and Old Spice.
Oh, mom. How lucky we were to have dad! He was the best man who ever lived. He just was. I know you were what created him into the gentle kind soul he was. His work ethic was always his own, but as we all know, dad had to learn to temper his aggression. Just like he taught me to do with biting his hand. The last time I ever saw dad get upset was at Brett in 2008. I’d say that argument may have been one of dad’s greatest regrets. I know he loved Brett, but of course he loved Shannon more. I never saw dad ever get angry after that. I think it is safe to say that he conquered his last flaw way before he died.
How we are going to miss dad. How we are all going to miss him, but of course, you will miss him most. I hope you can close your eyes and feel him holding your hand and reenact his kiss on your forehead because if I know anything it is that dad will never leave you comfortless. He was such a wonderful husband. What a lucky lady you have been. I know that your last breath on this earth will be the one you take while reaching for dad’s hand to pull you over to the other side with him. As much as I don’t want that to happen, I will be so happy to think of you two together again. Right now, you better keep thinking happy thoughts because selfishly I want to keep you around for awhile.
I love you, mom. I have to get to my homework right now, and the million other household duties that you know all too well. I’m going to try and write you at least once a week, and call you more often than that. I’m so glad our relationship is as good as it is. You’ve always had my best interest at heart, but like dad did, I am still learning how to let go of my stubborn ways.
My kids loved the stories about dad that were told at the funeral. They especially loved the bus and the hole in the backyard. I’m so glad they know dad as well as they do. On the way to the cemetery yesterday we passed by the Dixie football stadium. Abigail remembered you and dad coming to see her at her track meet. She was laughing about the pink hat dad had found at Wal-mart and how he passed out water bottles to her whole team. What I would give to have a memory like that with Grandpa John.
Hang in there, mom.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.