James Joseph “Joe” Willis, 79, died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2005, at his home in Carlsbad.
He was born in Nara Visa in 1926. He attended Melrose High School where he played football, basketball and track. He attended the University of New Mexico on an athletic scholarship where he lettered in football and played in the 1944 Sun Bowl. In 1944, he joined the Navy and served as quartermaster second class in the Pacific in the Philippines Liberation and in Japan. After his discharge, he returned to UNM and completed his bachelor’s and later his master’s degree.
He began his coaching career in Espanola in 1949, to become head coach for football and track and high school athletic director. He moved to Carlsbad in 1956 and served as head coach for football and track.
He was selected 1977 New Mexico high school athletic director of the year by the National High School Coaches Association. He was inducted into the New Mexico Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991.
Family members said he was a devoted husband to his wife, Alyce Coffelt Willis, a wonderful father and grandfather. He valued his many decades-long friendships.
He is survived by his wife, Alyce: Two daughters, Jo Pat (and husband, Forrest) and Jill Hadley (James); three granddaughters, Robyn Wellman, Jennifer Hadley-White and Katy Wellman; three great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be held for family and friends at 6 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2005, at the Fellowship Hall of the First United Methodist Church in Carlsbad. Former students and athletes will be special guests.
In lieu of flowers, the family has set up the Joe Willis Memorial Scholarship through the Carlsbad Foundation, 116 S. Canyon, Carlsbad, N.M. 88220.
Arrangements are by Denton-Fuchess Funeral Home of Carlsbad.