Susan Norfleet Harris Willis, 74, of Athens, died Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville.
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Susan was preceded in death by her parents Hood, Sr and Inez Teasley Harris, sister Teasley White, and brothers, Hood Harris, Jr. and Col. Sonny A. Cortner.
She was born in Florence, Alabama, and was raised on a farm in North Alabama by loving parents of the greatest generation. She gained confidence and independence during her years on the farm. She graduated from Coffee High School in Florence, Alabama in 1962 and Mississippi State College (MSCW) for women in 1966. The summer of 1962 she met her future husband Barry Willis and was married December 27, 1967.
She began her Navy wife career in the desert of Idaho at the Reactor Test Station in the middle of a cold winter. With her high spirits she enjoyed fishing, skiing, camping and exploring the West, as well as teaching and working another job.
As a Navy wife her duty stations included Coronado Island, California, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard near Seattle, Washington, Mare Island Naval Shipyard in the San Francisco Bay area. Her first child Murray H. Willis was born while her husband was deployed overseas. Her second child Ashley E.Willis was born at Travis Air Force Base in California. She met every challenge of Navy life during wartime with grace, spirit and kindness that comforted her family and made her many friends.
Her civilian life followed her husband's career in the operation of various Nuclear Plants and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, living in Chattanooga, TN, Florence, AL, and finally Athens, TN in 1977.
Her life's focus was love of children, grandchildren and extended family. Her kind heart, fun-filled spirit and loyalty provided love and guidance to each member of her family, young and old.
Her new city of Athens with its great churches, schools, leadership and citizens was a perfect fit for Susan. As a southern lady that was a joy to be around, making many friends young and old was easy. The small town values of Athens gave each member of her family a solid foundation to build a meaningful life. Susan wasted no time becoming a part of the community. She supported her children's school as a substitute teacher and volunteer. As Murray and Ashley went off to college, she decided to start a business. What followed was an Antique Store, Washington Street Cafe, Susan's Antique Mall all on the Athens Town Square. Her next adventure was a Bed and Breakfast in the 1858 Keith Mansion. Each was a business and gathering place success because she liked people and people liked her.
She is survived by her husband of 51 years, Barry Willis; one daughter, Ashley E. Cox; one son and daughter-in-law, Murray and Amber Willis; and four granddaughters, Grace Elizabeth Harris Cox, Mary Frances Holland Cox, Holland McCall Willis, and Parker Leigh Willis all of Athens.
A memorial service will be conducted 2:00 pm, Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at Mars Hill Presbyterian Church with Rev. Ford King officiating. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the Fellowship hall of the church.