MOISE WILLIS 1959-2016

Former U.S. Navy captain remembered for his passion for family, work and military


Moise Willis, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy who valued his relationships and military service, passed away after an extended illness on Dec. 11.

Willis, who was born Aug. 12, 1959, in Sumter, enlisted into the U.S. Navy in December 1977 and became a commissioned officer in 1991 after years of service and earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Hampton University and Howard University, respectively.

He went on to serve the Navy in the medical field in Jacksonville, Florida; Guam; Beaufort; Washington, D.C.; and Japan.

Willis' wife, Olivia, said traveling was one of the activities she enjoyed most with her husband.

He was passionate for his family, his work and the military, she said.

He was sweet-hearted to a fault, she said.

Olivia Willis said she will remember her husband's patience, calmness and forgiving spirit.

During his time in the Navy, Moise Willis made contacts who helped him along the way and did the same for those who came after him.

Moise's brother, Dr. Emanuel Willis, said he had a personal rule of never burning bridges because you never know when you'd need to cross them again.

Moise believed in giving a hand up, not a hand down, he said.

He never met a stranger, and he believed in everybody, Emanuel said.

Moise touched many lives during his 38 years in the military, he said. That was evident at his funeral, he said.

Moise was blessed to be put in contact with people who helped him, and he helped others when he became successful, said Janice Willis, Moise Willis' sister-in-law.

He was a mentor to every young person in the family, she said.

Moise would talk to anybody and he never forgot a name, Janice Willis said. When he made friends, he always stayed in contact, she added.

She said Moise's family did not just include blood relatives. He had a way of making everyone feel important to him, and you were, she said.

Moise was a best friend and a brother, said retired Rear Adm. Earl Gay, one of Willis' longtime friends.

"We lost a great American, and we're still aching from this loss," he said.

Most of all he was just a man who gave his all, he said. He lived for all of us, he said.

Moise loved Sumter and always talked about growing up there, Gay said.

He was one of the great sons of Sumter, he said.

A funeral service for the late retired Capt. Moise Willis was held at St. James United Methodist Church on Dec. 17.

- Adrienne Sarvis