Memorable Manitobans: John Ernest “Jack” Willis (1913-2002)
Born at Manitou on 13 June 1913, he moved to Winnipeg in 1919 with his mother and sister after his father was killed in the First World War. He earned his living in sales, spending most of his years as Regional Manager of Canadian General Tower, then with Fort Garry Travel, Fort Garry Trust, and Bestlands Development.
Defeated by narrow margins in his bid for a seat in the Manitoba Legislature in the 1958 and 1959 general elections, he was elected to the Metro Corporation of Greater Winnipeg from its inception in 1960 and served until it was dissolved on 31 December 1971, to be replaced by Unicity. During this period he held the positions of Councillor, Vice-Chairman (1962-1966) and Chairman (1966-1971). He was an active member of the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) while serving as Metro Chairman and for years up until the 1990s.
On 3 July 1937, he married Laura Anne May Campbell (1910-1993) in the RM of Rockwood and they had two daughters. He was involved in the local community club, Scouts, and St. Stephens Anglican Church, and was President of the Kildonan and North Winnipeg Conservative Associations. He was active in the Kiwanis Club, first as a charter member of the East Kildonan Club (1947 onwards), President of the East Kildonan Club (1950), Lieutenant-Governor (1953), Governor of the Western Canada District (1956), Secretary-Treasurer of the Western Canada District (1958-1960), International Trustee (1962-1966), and International Vice-President (1966-1969).
In 1991, he retired to Victoria, British Columbia where he died on 11 April 2002. He was buried with his wife in the Elmwood Cemetery.
Marriage registration [John Ernest Willis, Laura Anne May Campbell], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Marriage means home first to wife of Metro Chairman,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 November 1966.
Death registration [Annie Laura Willis], British Columbia Vital Statistics.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 20 April 2002.
“They will never be forgotten,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 December 2002, pages A8-A9.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 December 2022