Commander William Eli Willingham, Jr. (Ret. USN) passed away on August 26, 2016. Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m., on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, at Wesley United Methodist Church, Macon, Georgia. Rev. Billy Kimbrell will officiate. The family will greet friends for one hour after the service at the church. Interment will be private, in the Georgia Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Milledgeville. Cdr. Willingham, the son of the late William Eli Willingham, Sr. and Ethel Adams Willingham, was born April 1, 1924, in Enoree, South Carolina. His first wife, Rosanne Thweatt Willingham and infant son, George Thomas Willingham, preceded him in death, as did his three sisters, Naomi Blackwell, Anne Lavender and Esther Willingham. He retired in 1973 as a Commander in the US Navy, after nearly 30 years of service, ranging from a Hospitalman to Commanding Officer, Fleet Weather Facility. He served in NAVAIR, as Meteorological Officer, where he was responsible for advanced weather forecasting, instrumentation and modification. He was a veteran of three wars, and his duties took him throughout the world, from the South Pacific, to Korea, Japan, Morocco and finally to the Pentagon, in Washington, DC. While in the service, he received numerous awards, including The Navy Unit Commendation, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and The Korean Presidential Unit Citation. After retirement, he received his Masters in Communication from Georgia Southern University, and then taught NJROTC in Wrens, Georgia. After that, he pursued his lifelong passion for gardening, by first buying and operating the Wrens Feed and Seed Store, in Wrens Georgia, then by starting a greenhouse business after moving to Macon in 1980. Cdr. Willingham was a committed advocate for the mentally handicapped and mentally ill and served on the boards of the Macon ARC and River Edge Behavioral Health Center for many years. Cdr. Willingham was also member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Macon. Survivors include his second wife, Bernice Gentry Willingham of Macon, and her children Cheryl Cook of Conyers, GA and Ken Cook of Milledgeville, GA; daughters Janice Willingham (Jack Baker) of Columbia, SC, Julianne Willingham Hancock (Kevin) of St. Simons Island, GA and Jennifer Willingham of Macon, GA.; grandchildren, Emily Hancock (J.D. Wheat), Darcy Hancock-Dalal (Dr. Curran Dalal) and Anthony Cook (Brittney) and great-granddaughters, Alice Hancock and Sophia Cook. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Macon ARC, to help send developmentally disabled adults to camp at Easter Seals Camp ASCCA, Macon ARC, 4664 Sheraton Drive, Macon, GA 31210.
Monroe County Memorial Chapel has charge of arrangements.
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