Mary Jo Suydam ’66 Willis

Mary Jo Suydam ’66 Willis, 72, of Fairview, IL, passed away Monday, April 24, 2017, at the OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home in Peoria.

She was born on November 16, 1944, to Clifton Davies and Jessie L. (Burnett) Suydam in Fulton County, Illinois, at Graham Hospital in Canton, Illinois. She was raised in Fairview, Illinois, and then the family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for eight years. They moved back to Fairview in 1960. In 1962, she graduated from Spoon River Valley High School, then graduated from Canton Community College in 1964 andHope College in Holland, Michigan, in 1966.

Preceding her in death was her husband, Frank Willis, whom she married on July 17, 1971. Frank died on March 24, 2016.

Surviving her are one son, Benjamin Levis Willis and his wife, Dr. Isa Alfonso, and their son, Julian, of New York City; and one daughter, Mariam Graff in Los Angeles, California, at UCLA.

She taught at South Fulton School from 1969-1972, Spoon River Valley Schools and the International School in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, returning in 1989 to teach again at Spoon River Valley until 2005. She started Red Apple School with Nancy Dennis in the early 1970s through the auspices of the Reformed Church. Her goal in teaching was to instill a love of knowledge.

Also surviving are her brother, Jerry (wife, Kay) of Canton, Illinois; and three sisters, Marnie (husband, John) Newman of Chandler, AZ, Martha (husband, Jim) Orcutt of North Platte, NE, and Marjie (husband, Gary) Shelby of Fairview, IL. Preceding her in death were her brother, Jim, who died on Nov. 4, 2007; and her eldest sister, Marilyn (Ken) Stratton, who died on January 11, 2011.She loved her brothers’ and sisters’ children. Her nieces and nephews surviving her are Randy, Dennis, and Dee Ann Stratton, Rod and Wendy Suydam, Jill Brady Smith, Valerie Ludden, Shannon Nord, Jason and Justin Suydam, Troy and Ryan Shelby, Katie Orcutt Quick and Clifton Russell Orcutt. One nephew, Douglas Reed Suydam Wilcox, preceded her in death. Twenty-four great-nieces and nephews survive her, Sean, Lindsey, Sabriah, Christin, Danielle, Jared, Wes, Jesse, Thyme, Zane, Tatum, Paige, Liam, Bryn, Ben, Ellie, Karissa, Anna, Ethan, Jacob, Grace, Blake, Logan and Aiden. Two great-great-nieces survive her, Aaliyah Wilcox and Gabriella Marie Suydam. Aiden Quick is also a great-great-nephew. She was a member of the Fairview Reformed Church in Fairview, IL, since she was sixteen. In lieu of a funeral, a Spoon River Valley Educational Fund Scholarship is set up under her husband’s name at the Fairview State Bank.

Return to Current In Memoriam