Owner/Broker of George F. Willis Realty, Willis represented Bartow County land owners since 1988 and while friends speak of his consummate professionalism, he was most often described as honest, conscientious, selfless and a true Southern gentleman.
Willis came from a family of prominence growing up in St. Simons Island and Atlanta but sought a simpler life with Kathy, his wife of 37 years, telling her, "I'd rather go broke in Bartow than go crazy in Atlanta," upon his decision to move to Cartersville in 1988.
Ty Mitcham, associate broker at George F. Willis Realty, recalled his first meeting with Willis 22 years ago and the relationship that formed over the past seven years as they have worked together.
"Since my dad died, George and I have only grown closer and closer and he served as a mentor in my life," Mitcham said. "I had the privilege of working with the most selfless, non-greedy person. In this tough market -- all George cared about was that I could take care of my two kids."
That gracious attitude extended into the rest of his life as well, said Mitcham, as Willis made a conscious effort to be a positive source in others' lives.
"If we went through his life -- I could write a book," Mitcham said. "I think what I learned most was how he loved his wife, how he cared for her, how he took care of me. ... It was always, 'What could I do for others?'"
Willis is survived by his wife and their marriage made an impression on those who knew them best. One of the greatest lessons Mitcham learned from Willis was through observing the love he had for Kathy.
"To a young person, in our lives, it's important to have a great example of marriage," Mitcham said. "And to watch how much he loved Kathy ... it was one of the sweetest things to see -- he adored her. There was nothing more important in his world than Kathy."
Arnold Heflin, local author, first met Willis while working in Atlanta but got to know him closely after moving to Bartow County. When asked to share about his late friend, Heflin was quick to praise Willis' character but made special note to include the love Willis showed his wife.
"I met George 40 years ago, he was not in the real estate business then, I was, and we were friends ... but when I moved to Cassville in 2003, George and I became really good friends and he was one of the classiest guys I have ever known," Heflin said. "And I can say this about George Willis, I never met another man that loved his wife as much as George loved Kathy. She was his life."
Heflin continued with remarks about Willis' professional demeanor, referring to him as a Southern gentleman. Heflin remembered business deals sealed with a handshake describing Willis' word as his bond.
Mitcham spoke of Willis' professionalism with reference to his insistence that those at George F. Willis Realty always wear a coat and tie. For Willis, it was a matter of respect for clients and their trust in him to handle their money.
At Willis' request, no funeral will be held.