Pat Willis lost his battle to cancer this week. It was a battle he waged for many years — fighting quietly and courageously, never letting the disease come between him and making a difference in his community.
He was a man always reaching out to set new goals, no matter how daunting they might first appear.
Willis’ passion earned him the respect of all who crossed his path — whether it was in the business world where he helped build several community banks, serving on numerous boards and committees or working with his favorite group, the Mogollon Sporting Association.
Willis, for the past 10 years, was one of the most active members of the association serving as president, treasurer and on the board of directors.
Willis, born and raised in Mesa, was a member of the association partly because he loved to hunt and fish.
On some of the hunting trips, Willis opened up to friends — but never in public — about his Vietnam War experience as a member of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Infantry, nicknamed “The Herd.”
“That was a tough outfit,” said John Naughton, Roundup publisher, who served in the Marines during the war.
Willis’ experiences in Vietnam prompted him to chair a committee that twice brought the Vietnam War Memorial Wall to Payson. “This is one of my proudest moments,” he confided when it appeared at Green Valley Park in June 2008.
Willis told the Roundup that the memorial provided an opportunity to honor the nation’s entire war dead, including the young men still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We think it is really important that it is coming to Payson — not only because it’s the 25th anniversary of the creation of the original wall, but the other things going on in the world right now,” he said in a story published by the Roundup.
Willis served the community in many other ways, including being president of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation, serving on the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce board and Payson Regional Medical Center board, being a longtime Rotary Club member and last year being the grand marshal of the 124th Payson Rodeo Parade.
Pat Willis, a big man with a big heart — he will be missed.
Paying Paul, sorry Peter
Payson’s watching the bottom line.
Tough luck school district.
So the hard-pressed Payson council recently decided to draw the line at the frequent requests from the Payson Unified School District for a break on building fees — in this case about $6,000 in inspection fees for fire alarm systems.
The council is watching out for town taxpayers.
Yeah, well, except that turns out to be exactly the same people who will have to pay the fees now through the school district.
So we’ve moved the $6,000 from one pocket of the taxpayers’ threadbare cargo pants to another, in the process deducting the ever-present government handling fee — doubled since it’s one bureaucracy cutting a check to another.
Alas, we’ve got a terrible sinking sensation that come this time next year, the worm will have turned. Odds are, the economy will have picked up and the town’s finances will have brightened.
On the other hand, we fear that the structural changes in the state’s budget, coupled with the lack of federal bailout money next year, will have riddled the foundations of the school district’s budget, like an infestation of termites.
Only one thing’s for certain — we know who will pick up the tab — and pay the bureaucratic process fee.