September 28, 1948 ~ July 23, 2021

Born in: Laurel, Mississippi
Resided in: Inglewood, California

Johnny C. Willis Video Tribute

When Johnny C. Willis left his hometown of Laurel, Mississippi and moved to Los Angeles, California in 1969, he had no idea where his life would lead him when he moved out west.

Johnny was born September 28, 1948, the last of five children born to the late Percy Willis, Sr., and Hartie Mae Mason Willis.

After graduating from Oak Park High School in 1967, Johnny enrolled in classes at Jones County College before making his way out to Los Angeles with his then-wife Emma Wright.  From this union, the two had a son, Johnny C. Willis, Jr., in 1968, before separating.

As he started his life anew, Johnny began working at Ohrbach’s department store, where he met the love of his life, Deborah “Debbie” Wood.  Knowing he wanted to make a good impression, Johnny invited Debbie to the “Happiest Place on Earth” (also known as Disneyland), for their first date.  The extravagant date brought them closer together, and the pair married on June 10, 1978.

In addition to finding Debbie, Johnny also found another love when he moved west: bowling.  While going out with friends after work, Johnny would play for fun, but once his cousin Viola showed him how to curve the ball down the lane, he became a top-notch bowler, joining a league and winning many tournaments.  Soon, he had so many trophies that he didn’t know what to do with them!  Johnny was so good that he even earned a pin from the Los Angeles Bowling Association for averaging a 265 score, which is considered in the “Excellent” range in the sport.

When he wasn’t at work or in the bowling alley, Johnny and Debbie spent time traveling to many locations including St. Thomas, Mexico, Hawaii, and toured various cities in Europe (Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Rome), before welcoming their daughters, Heather and Ashley, in 1983 and 1985 respectively.

Johnny was a devoted husband and the ultimate “girl dad.”  Very bright and an extremely hard worker, Johnny was determined to provide for his family and give his children a good life.  After leaving Ohrbach’s in 1986, Johnny began his career as a supervisor for the aerospace design and manufacturing company G&H Technology.  When the company headquarters moved from Santa Monica to Camarillo, Johnny didn’t let the commute stop him from being home in time to check homework, catch the opening night of a recital or play, chaperone field trips, and iron everyone’s work and school clothes for the next day.  He also made sure his family was well-fed.  Whenever Johnny pulled out his cast iron skillets, everyone knew they were in for some good eating with his fried chicken or pork chops.  Weekends were spent cooking sausage, eggs, and grits for breakfast before taking his girls to dance classes or the library, volunteering for school fundraisers, or taking family trips to Disneyland.

In 2008, Johnny retired from G&H Technology to help care for his mother-in-law, Bernice, and his granddaughter, Olivia.  He spent much of his retired years caring for others and traveling with his family. Johnny had such a friendly and easygoing personality: he couldn’t run errands without making a new friend every time he went out.  He was a fixture at Olivia’s schools; all of the teachers and parents knew him.  He made a point to write thank you letters to each of her teachers at the end of the school year, thanking them for their hard work and dedication to teaching.  Johnny was always a listening ear or sounding board and offered some of the best advice and support.  Although Johnny had an easy and mild personality, he was firm when necessary.

Anyone who knew Johnny could see that he truly loved his family and enjoyed helping others.  Johnny fell asleep in death on July 23, 2021, in Inglewood, California, surrounded by his girls.  He is survived by his loving wife of 43 years, Debbie; daughters, Heather Willis, and Ashley Frierson and her husband Dennis; granddaughters Olivia Willis, Alana Frierson, Jasmine Willis, and Rachel Willis; grandsons Jonathan Willis and Richard Willis; great-granddaughters Faith Sims-Willis, and Lyric Woods-Willis; brother John Charles Willis; nephew, Jerrold Willis and his wife Shantwania; niece Angela Moore; great-nieces Kaitlin Moore, Mia Willis, and Samara Willis; daughter-in-law Rosena Willis; sister-in-law Marcia Wood; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Johnny was preceded in death by his parents, Percy and Hartie Mae Willis; two sisters, Alice and Baby Willis;  brother, Percy Willis, Jr.; son, Johnny C. Willis, Jr.;  parents-in-law, Earl and Bernice Wood; and his sister-in-law, Ann Willis.

To honor Johnny’s wishes, there will not be any formal services held in his honor.


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    • Mr. Johnny, I light this candle in honor of your life story. I know you are loved and missed tremendously by your lovely girls. You leave a lifetime of memories to cherish with your beautiful family.

      May you continue to soar high and rest in eternal peace 🙏🏽 HUGS XxXxX

  1. candle 7I’m lighting this candle for the wonderful life of Mr. Willis. Ms Debbie has blessed me with several stories of the amazing times that you shared and I know for a fact that you will be truly missed.

    Keeping the family in my prayers!❤️🙏🏾


  2. candle 8Heather, I don’t know your parents well personally but I know you, your sister, your daughter well enough to know how much they love you and you; them. I know well enough to feel the warmth of your father’s presence, I know well enough to know how much it must hurt to be enduring this. This is a wonderful video tribute, it made me cry, and that is in part how I know I feel the importance of his presence. The love between you all. I may be rambling a bit, but blessings and love to you all. May he rest well

  3. Prayers and Condolences For Family and Friends. Psalm 121
    Pastor Anthony Wilcher& Mt Sinai Baptist Church
    Meadville Ms

  4. My sincere condolences and prayers to the Wilis and Mason families. I knew Johnny growing up in our neighborhood in Laurel,MS and can still visualize his beautiful smile as a young man. A wonderful life lived fully, touching so many lives. RIP Johnny C.
    Pamela Jones, KC neighbor

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