A memorial celebration of life visitation for Donald Duane “Don” Willson, 70, Lawrence, will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home & Crematory.
Mr. Willson died Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, of heart failure at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
He was born Aug. 21, 1941, in Hoisington, Kan., the son of Lawrence and Pearle Thoman Willson. He attended schools in Hoisington and Ellinwood, and graduated from Winfield High School in 1959. He later graduated from Southwestern College in Winfield in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in math education. He went on to earn his first master’s degree in mathematics from Pittsburg State University in 1971, and a second master’s in school administration from Wichita State University.
Mr. Willson spent 45 years as a public school educator in Kansas and Colorado. He taught math for many years at Newton High School, as well as Washburn University and Ottawa University. He was an assistant principal, athletic director, principal, and assistant school superintendent, eventually retiring as Superintendent of Schools in Concordia. After retiring, he taught math at Lawrence Free State High School. He was a member of Rotary Club, a Paul Harris fellow, the Elks Club, and served as president of the National Association of Athletic Directors from 1978-79. He was a former head high school and college football coach, and a high school wrestling coach. He was an avid 30 year Canadian fisherman, enjoyed traveling adventures and 14 cruise vacations, and was the ultimate University of Kansas Jayhawk fan. At the age of seven, he started listening to Jayhawk basketball games on the radio, even getting in trouble for kicking the family radio after a Jayhawk loss.
He married Carol Otto in 1964, and together they had three children. He later married Gay Gregg in 1982. She survives of the home.
Other survivors include three children, Sheri Burge and husband Chris, Overland Park, Debbi Croxton, Kansas City, Mo., and Brad Willson and wife Lesley, Overland Park; two brothers, Wayne, Weatherford, Okla., and Garrell, Loveland, Colo.; and 14 grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and grandparents Lorena and Clyde Thoman and Ida and Floyd Willson.
As Don was a child polio survivor, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Rotary International Polio Plus Program, in care of the funeral home, 601 Ind., Lawrence, KS, 66044.
Messages & Condolences
Gay, I am so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. I just learned of it yesterday (1/7/12). I know you’ve lost both your sister and your husband within a few months, and I can imagine that must be very hard. My thoughts are with you.
Gay… I am just so sad to hear about Don. I didn’t hear until today. Please feel my arms around you! My sincerest condolences to you & the whole family. He was lucky to have you in his life. Love, Jane
I am so sorry to hear about your husband. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
To my old friend,
I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Please accept my condolences.
I am sorry to hear of your loss. My hope is that peace finds you and your family soon.
Dear Gay and family, It is a huge loss to lose both a man and educator such as Don Willson. I hold you in prayer and thoughts from hereon out.
I’m so sorry to learn of Don’s death. I know this past year has been incredibly difficult for him and his family. He suffered much during this time. I enjoyed knowing him over the years. He was a true gentleman. Please accept my sincere condolences.
Sorry to hear of Don’s passing.My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Debbi & Family,
I’m so sorry to hear about your father. He was one of my favorite people & I have very fond memories of our NHS days. I still remember him taking us to the State Basketball Championship game in Emporia (& getting out of class early!). My condolences to you & your family. Rock Chalk!
Our sincerest condolences to Mr. Willson’s family. Both of our children had the pleasure of having Don for a math teacher at Free State High and both sincerely loved him and were so saddened to hear of his passing. As parents we always looked forward to the parent teacher conferences with him. He was such an awesome guy! We will always remember him for the help he provided to our daughter who had previously struggled with math. She ended up only being in his class for the first quarter and then he saw to it that she moved to the next level math class. This provided her with the confidence she needed and ultimately helped her to score very well on the math portion of her ACT! He went above and beyond to make sure each student was getting what he or she needed in his classes. Truly an amazing educator and we feel so blessed to have met him! I’m sure his memory will live on in the countless students and others he has inspired along the way.
Forty-four years ago I had Mr. Wilson as a math teacher. I sat in the back of the room and tried to stay under his radar. One day he called on me to explain a certain math problem. I gave him the correct answer and he said”Mr. Davis the correct answer is in the back of the book. I don’t care about the correct answer. I want you to learn how to think.” No other teacher in high school or college ever said that to me. It has stayed with me and I hope to have passed it on to my children. Thank you Mr. Wilson for helping me learn to think for myself. Go Hawks.
Sorry to hear of Don’s passing. I was his Wichita Eagle paperboy in the late 1960’s when he lived on SE 11th in Newton and then his Algebra II student in the early-1970’s at Newton High School. Since I went on to K-State to become a chemical engineer, I always felt that Don had a key role in preparing me for what has been a great career in R&D for Phillips Petroleum/ConocoPhillips. My sympathies to the family. Don was a talented educator and coach who could reach students at every level.
So Sorry to hear about Mr. Willson’s death. I really enjoyed working across from him when I worked at Newton High for Office Education. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.
So sorry to hear of Mr. Willson’s death. I enjoyed working across from him when I was in Office Education at Newton High. Keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers.
We are sorry to hear about your loss. It was a honor for me to have worked with Don those many years at NHS. Charle and Sharon Triggs
We are very sorry for your loss. It’s always hard to say “goodbye”” to someone we love. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the family.
I am so sorry to hear about your dad. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
What a terrific man Don was. He gave so much to Concordia, and so quietly. Of course, you were there with him every step of the way.One of my favorite memories were the meeting times…always few minutes before or after the hour. Never on the hour!! His leadership for our school district was outstanding.
You & your family are in our thoughts & prayers, Tom & Suzy
I’m deeply sorry that Mr. Willson died. He was my Math teacher last year and i couldn’t have asked for anyone better to teach me every morning. He wasn’t like any other teacher i had. He was happy all the time and super enthusiastic about everything. If i was having a bad day i was sure that when i went to Mr. Willson’s class that i would be cheered up for an hour. He was a great person and will be deeply missed by every student he ever taught. Once again, i’m very sorry for your loss and wish you all the best!
So sorry for your loss. Mr. Wilson was a great man and it was my pleasure to get to know him while in school. He kept me out of trouble several times and at times was more of a friend than a principal.
I am so sorry to hear about Don’s passing. I enjoyed getting to know him when you were my counselor in high school. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!
Gay and family:
I was so sad to hear of Don’s death. He was a dedicated leader in Concordia and will be missed. Please accept my deepest sympathy in your loss. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers….I am truly sorry, Gay.
I want to express my sincere condolences to you for Don’s passing. My prayers are with you.
Gay- sorry to hear of Don’s passing. I appreciated his years of guidance and leadership in Concordia.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Gay, we were saddened to read about Don’s passing. We always enjoyed our parent-teacher meetings with him and value the education he gave our kids. Our deepest sympathy to you and entire his family.
I am so sorry for your lose. Don was a good neighbor and great leader in our community. My thoughts and prayers are with you Gay and family. May God bless and keep you during this difficult time. R.I.P. Don, you will be missed.
My deepest sympathy to Mr. WIlson’s family, especially his children who I went to school with.
I’m so sorry for your loss.
I am sorry that Don is gone, but happy that his suffering has ended. He was such a special friend. Who, but Don, would have taken a 68 yr. old person and given them a whole new take on life? The next ten years working under his guidance are among some of the best years of my life. He was a kind and gentle boss and I am better by far for having known him. Gay, my sincere condolences.
So sorry that Don has passed, but so glad he won’t suffer anymore. He will forever be my favorite BOSS!! If it weren’t for Don, I would not be where I am today. He was a very kind, loving person and always available to help. I someday look forward to taking a cruise and will keep him close in my thoughts the whole time. My sincere condolences Gay and family. He was a great man and love by many. He will be greatly missed!
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