Jean Willis


Jean  Willis, 83, longtime resident of Bakersville, died Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Spruce Pine, at the age of 83 after a period of declining health.

Jean is survived by her daughter, Vicky Ayers, and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Chris Ayers, of Charlotte; grandsons, Will Ayers, of Charlotte; Malachi Willis, and his wife, Jamie Willis, currently stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas; granddaughter, Nikki Willis, and her husband, Steven Thomas, of Bakersville; great-grandchildren, Oliver and Mia Willis, of Bakersville; sisters-in-law, Kate Murdock, of Hendersonville, Sena Mae Gouge, of Bakersville, and Margaret Wilson, of Bakersville; and her nieces and nephews, who loved her dearly, also survive her.

Her sons, Chris and Michael, and her loving husband, James, preceded Jean in death. Also, preceding her in death was her twin sister, Jo Ann Silver; sister, Martha Gouge; and brothers, Edward, Bruce and Bobby Holder.

Jean was born Jan. 28, 1936, in Spruce Pine. Her family later moved to Ohio, where she attended McKinley Senior High in Canton, Ohio. Once she was married, she returned to North Carolina, where she taught home economics for the Agriculture Extension Agency for several years. 

She also worked at Welborn’s Men’s Store in Spruce Pine, Henredon Furniture in Spruce Pine and in the home. She devoted her life to her family and to her church.

A member of Bear Creek Baptist Church in Bakersville, she loved her church family. She oversaw the children’s nursery for 40 years. She was a gracious hostess to all the children who came and worked to make them feel loved, welcome and accepted as a child of God. She was also a dedicated member of her Sunday School class and a leader of the Women’s Missionary Union. 

She and her husband delivered Meals on Wheels for 10 years. Together, they enjoyed visiting the elderly and shut-ins, helping others, and traveling throughout the United States with church members, family and friends. 

Jean loved gardening, canning, cooking, sewing and re-upholstering/refinishing furniture.

The family received friends at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, at Bear Creek Baptist Church in Bakersville, followed by a funeral service, then a graveside service. The Rev. Dr. Andy Willis, Jean’s nephew, officiated along with the Rev. Bruce Canon. 

Music for the service was provided by Jean’s niece, Rhonda Gouge, and a special friend, Peggy Howell. Interment was in the Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Hospice and Palliative Care of the Blue Ridge Inc., 236 Hospital Drive, Spruce Pine, NC 28777.

The family would like to thank the Mitchell House, Hospice and Palliative Care of the Blue Ridge, Bear Creek Baptist Church and Webb Funeral Home for their care.  

Words of comfort may be emailed to the family by going to, selecting Jean Willis’ name and signing her guestbook. 

Webb Funeral Home of Spruce Pine is honored to be assisting the Willis family. Jean’s obituary has also been posted on Facebook.

Mitchell News-Journal • Jan. 22, 2020