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As Paul retired from Shawnee Heights High School he handed over the keys to his classroom to me. He shared so many ideas, files, collections, and stories. He “coached” me, especially in Zoology, and left materials and labs to help the students (and the teacher). Paul came back to school several times for presentations on birds! He was so kind and thoughtful, and included some humor in all he shared. I admired him so much and was thankful for all he did for me, thousands of students, and Shawnee Heights.
My thoughts and prayers are with him on this special day of the celebration of his life.
~ Kerry Kapfer - August 18, 2021
I am saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Willis, who was a great and wonderful teacher. Mr. Willis had a huge impact upon my life, as after graduating from SHHS in 1973, I became a student at Baker University and graduated with a B.S. degree in Biology in May 1977. I was then blessed to work in the plant genetics business with Pioneer Hi-Bred for 35 years before retiring. Mr. Willis is one teacher I will never forget, as he instilled within me a love and appreciation for biology. To think it all started for me with his plant labs as a HS sophomore! My sympathies and prayers are with the family as they morn the loss of a great man who truly deserves much admiration and appreciation.
~ Bob Iwig - August 16, 2021
Mr. Willis was one of my favorite teachers. His quick wit, generous personality and positive approach without judging, allowed this musician/jock to actually enjoy a science. Thank you!?? My condolences to his family.
~ Daryl Daryl Batchelor - August 16, 2021
I remember tracking through the mud and dirt of Mr. Willis’s outdoor biology class at Shawnee Heights, and I loved every minute! Ever eager to share the glory and knowledge of the Kansas biome with students, Mr. Willis took the time to not just teach us from a book but to get us out to explore and experience our new found knowledge firsthand! I learned so much about the plants, birds, and animals of my Kansas— this is knowledge I still recall and savor today as a 52 year old woman! Wow! Now that’s a teacher when the lessons stick with the students long after they leave the classroom. But most of all, he was a great teacher and a great human being! I went on to teach life science for several years and I was hands on and marveled with my students in their discoveries, just like Mr. Willis taught me! Godspeed, Mr. Willis. We shall meet again in God’s perfect creation, identifying birds by call, and marveling at the bluestem prairie! Until then, Angela (Davis) Jeppesen, class of ‘87
~ Angela Jeppesen - August 9, 2021
What a great loss to science with Mr. Willis’s passing. Forty plus years after taking botany and zoology from him and I still can still correctly fling some terms around and identify plant parts! That’s to his credit. Thank you, Mr. Willis. My condolences to his loved ones.
~ Linda Fenton - August 9, 2021
Dear Willis Family ,
I had the distinct pleasure of knowing both of your parents for many, many years as a member of HPUM Church . Paul was always willing and extremely able to answer questions about various flora and fauna around my Shawnee Heights home, from invasive insects to wild mammals to bothersome birds (woodpeckers!).
And we had many a good time through the years as we enjoyed the different Sunday School Class parties together.
Not to mention Paul's wonderful clarifying contributions to those classes. He was always able to explain and clarify those points that needed to be further elaborated upon.
It was a distinct pleasure to have known Paul through the years and to have been the grateful recipient of his kindness and of his helpfulness. I especially think of my challenges as a widow when I had the huge task of clearing out and moving from a four bedroom home to a much smaller residence and all of the great help they gave me.
~ Laura Autrey - August 8, 2021
Paul was a colleague of mine for the 11 years I taught at Shawnee Heights. He was such a kind and gentle person. We ate lunch together at the faculty table regularly where I enjoyed his sense of humor and appreciated his advice. We had several very meaningful conversations about being Christians and teaching science. Though he had a life well-lived, my heart-felt sympathy goes out to his family and close friends.
~ Susan Alexander - August 8, 2021
Mr. Willis was my high school biology teacher, as well as attending HPUMC at the same time my family did. Mrs. Willis was my grade school librarian. Both were such kind and helpful people and wonderful teachers.
~ Diane Welchhans - August 3, 2021
Sheila I am so sorry to hear about your dad.
My thought’s and prayers are with you and your family.
~ Arelia Gray (Donnelly) - July 27, 2021
My life was more joyful because of my time spent in Mr. Willis' Biology class. When I was a junior at Shawnee Heights, I got some bad/great advice from a guidance counselor there. She told me that if I was going to college, I needed to take Biology in high school. This advice was bad, because I did not need Biology for my college major. It was great advice because Mr. Willis taught me how to understand and appreciate the world around me. Mr. Willis understood high school is much more than learning what we needed to get a job or get through college. It should be about learning about ourselves and the rest of the world, and to enjoy all of it.
Rest in peace Paul Willis! You are a great teacher and a wonderful person!
SHHS class of 1966
~ Robert Wilch - July 22, 2021
Paul was a wonderful mentor and master gardener. He introduced me to native plants and their critical role in the web of life. When we pulled "weeds" at the Native Plant Garden , he'd call them "uninvited guests." Steve is right, he made the world a better place.
~ Mary Powell - July 20, 2021
When I learned of Paul's passing, I thought of the proverb that says something like "when an old man passes, a full library is gone". Paul was a library. I was in the same Master Gardener class as Paul. At lunch time three or four of us always gathered around Paul so he could further explain to us what we had been learning that morning. What a wonderful teacher!
~ Ellen Brown - July 19, 2021
Paul was a wonderful person and will be missed by many. My husband and I met him first at Highland Park UMC where he sang in the choir I led, and then Dan taught with him at Shawnee Heights. Through their daily contact Paul influenced Dan to become an avid birder. They went on many Audubon field trips together. Paul also lived a few blocks from us and during my years of leaving home early in the morning to drive to Lyndon to teach I would often see Paul running on his morning exercise regimen. He would always smile and wave. His smile and his soft voice endeared him to all who knew him, and we were all blessed by his wisdom and kindness.
~ Jeannie Gish - July 19, 2021
I wish to express my sincere sympathy and condolences to Paul's entire family and loved ones. I have very fond memories of Paul from being a student in his Biology Class at Shawnee Heights High School in 1966-1967. He was an outstanding teacher with a wealth of knowledge and an exceptional ability to make it interesting and easy to understand by his students. He also was a very kind and caring man that made sure you as a student understood he wanted you to do well in his class. I especially remember the incredible labs that we did throughout the year that really made the subject matter come alive. Paul's class was one of the keys that lead me to major in Biology at Baker University. After Baker I knew I wanted to spend my career in a field that had something to do with plants and since I also grew up on a dairy farm to do with agriculture. So I went on to get a M.S. and PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Purdue University and spent a 30 year career in research developing new varieties and hybrids of field crops for farmers around the world. I am confident I am one of many students that have a similar story to share about the impact Paul had on them as a student and on their entire careers and lives. RIP Paul and thanks for all the hours you spent in a class room teaching generation after generation of students to help prepare them for the rest of their lives.
My sincere sympathy and condolences,
~ Mark Iwig - July 18, 2021
I’m a student of his, Shawnee Heights, Class of ‘74. He was a good teacher and you could tell he was passionate about his subjects. My brother, Keith, and I met him as adults when he was a liaison between KDWP and citizens on cougar sightings. We drove him around SE Shawnee county where we’ve had sightings. Never could convince him but we loved spending the afternoon with him.
~ John Payne - July 18, 2021
Paul taught across the hall from me at Shawnee Heights High School. He was one of the best teachers I ever knew. His patience, dedication, and caring were what made him special. He created a program where his high school students took elementary students on hiking trails and taught them about the plants and trees they encountered. Paul always had an easy smile and a great sense of humor. His "puns" were legendary. It was a real pleasure to know him.
~ Nelda Reynolds - July 18, 2021
I met Paul through the wildflower society and Topeka Audubon. I always thought everyone should aspire to be like Paul. Very knowledgeable but not a braggart. He was just a pleasure to know. He was kind and sincere. I'm glad he was a teacher as I'm sure he had a positive effect on many students. To the family of Paul, you are incredibly lucky to call him family. A great man.
~ Jeff Hansen - July 18, 2021
Mr. Willis was among the first group of teachers that transferred from Highland Park HS to open up Shawnee Heights HS in the fall of 1962, along with my dad Claude Reynolds and principal Barney Hays. He was my biology teacher my junior year and he made the subject fun and interesting to learn with his easy going and kind personality. His classroom was in the southeast wing of the school next to my dad's driver education classroom. I fondly remember the field trips he would take our class on to learn first hand about different plants, flowers and species. Shawnee Heights was lucky to have Mr. Willis on the faculty, a true mentor and role model. Those who have gone before us in heaven now have a tremendous teacher and a great addition to The Kingdom in Heaven, God Bless! Doug Reynolds, Class of 1968
~ Doug Reynolds - July 18, 2021
Karen and family, I am sorry for your loss. He made Biology class enjoyable because he was a patient and kind person. My sympathies to you,
~ Linda Kreipe Bond - July 18, 2021
Karen, Tom and boys--
I don't know how to reach you anymore, but when I saw your dad's name, I remembered the stories of your dad as an Audubon bird watcher.
The time spent working on a quilt remains wonderful memories. Since then, you and I both lost our mothers. Time marches on. Your father would be proud of the lives you built and the men you raised.
"When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them but to live with the love they left behind." Unknown
Nancy and Don Daniels
~ Nancy Daniels - July 18, 2021
My condolences, prayers, hugs and love to you, Teresa and your family Robert. Gods Blessings.
~ Robin Casselman - July 18, 2021
I had the privilege of being on the first faculty of Shawnee Heights High School along with Paul. I taught vocal and instrumental music and I believe I had the privilege of directing one of the summer bands, in which either Karen or Sheila were in it. We lived on Tecumseh Road where the Cochran's (I believe that is their name) live now across the road from Tecumseh South Elem. My wife, Rene, and I had 3 sons-- David, John, & Tom. Our two families spent time together, and also attended H.P. Methodist Church in the same Sunday School Class. What an incredible gracious gentleman Paul was. And I'm just now finding out that there was a service in Salina today, and I wasn't aware of it. My wife is also no longer living, but I live in McPherson, just down the road. I may try to go to Topeka whenever the memorial service there may be. Paul was a very gentle person, but also very quick with the witty comment. My wife and I loved your family-- in fact I vaguely remember that one of you daughters and my son John had lots of fun playing together. By the way, he lives in Lawrence, and works at UMB (bank) in K.C. I have often wondered about the welfare of your family, and would love to meet you again. I want to express my deepest sympathy, and am totally aware that my situation is somewhat similar-- aging, and preparing to make use of the rest of my time here on earth.
A very precious memory for me - your dad, and mom,- and all of you (dare I say it) kids.
Much love and prayers to to all of you.
~ Edwin "Jim" Pauls - July 15, 2021
My thoughts and prayers to the Willis family. Thank you especially, Sheila, for sharing your Dad with me! I cherish the times of hanging out at your house, walking through the pasture, and camping! Botany lessons and dumb jokes were always at hand. Your father had an infectious smile and a loving spirit. I will miss him!
Love to you all,
~ Cynthia Baker - July 15, 2021
Paul Willis made the world a better place. Anyone who ever met him knows that.
~ Steve Paige - July 15, 2021
Want to express my sincere condolences for your family. He was a great teacher in his days at SHHS and good neighbor.
~ Thomas Naylor - July 15, 2021
Paul was a wonderful individual with multiple interests. Paul and Lillian lived in Manhattan while Paul was a student there at the same time Bert was a senior and we had been married the summer before. It was my first time away from family and it was wonderful to be part of theirs.
He will be missed. Our love and sympathy to all of the children and grandchildren of Paul and also to Barbara with whom he shared his last years. Irene Curry
~ Irene Curry - July 15, 2021
Paul was a wonderful teacher and a kind, caring man. His passing is a loss for all.
~ Richard Soash - July 14, 2021
Mr. Willis was the Kindest Teacher I ever had. Class included Biology , Botany , Zoology and a newer class called Consumer Science . I was just an average student which loved science, and he had such patience with me.
Class of 76
~ Craig Brady - July 14, 2021
My sympathy to your family. I remember your dad as a nice teacher at SHHS. Hold tight your memories.
Class of 1971.
Ann Kiehl Keller
~ Ann Kiehl Keller - July 14, 2021
Mr. Willis was one of my five top teachers of my entire scholastic endeavor. I had him at Shawnee Heights for a class called Botony. Because of the strong schema he helped build while I was in high school I was able to fly through my botany class at K state. I will always remember him as a kind enthusiastic (for his teaching subject matter) caring individual. So sorry for your loss family of Mr. Willis.
Former student/current board member
Renae Hansen/class of 1980 SHHS
~ Renae Hansen - July 14, 2021
Thank you, Mr. Willis, for your years of service to the Shawnee Heights community. I thank God for dedicated teachers and pray God will bless your family with many memories bringing laughter and tears as the grieve and with peace.
Nancy (Haselwood) McLemore
~ Nancy McLemore - July 14, 2021
To All the Paul Willis Family:
I had Mr. Willis as an instructor in Biology class and as my supervisor as a biology lab assistant. His classes were always fun and interesting, and many exciting and frequently humorous times occurred for me as one of his lab assistants. I will always cherish those memories. My sympathy to each of you with this loss of such a special person.
Sincerely, Ann Hawks (class of 1970)
~ Ann Hawks - July 13, 2021
Paul was a wonderful and generous human being. When he retired from Shawnee Heights High School, he left his files and materials to help me with teaching Biology and Zoology. He came back several times to share his bird slides and stories with students. Paul was a mentor to me.
He was a wise and caring man, and he will be missed by so many people.
~ Kerry Kapfer - July 13, 2021
Sad to hear that my favorite biology teacher and father of my lifelong friend Bob has graduated to glories that we can only imagine.
Praying that God's peace and grace be with the entire Willis family at this time and in the years to come.
My Love to All,
Brian D Velasquez
~ Brian Velasquez - July 13, 2021
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