William Elmer Willis
(Textile Worker, Brick Mason and Taxidermist)
Story furnished by Clarence Crocker



William Elmer Willis was born October 9, 1910, the son of George W. and Marcella Gibson Willis and was a Spartanburg native. He was a member of the Glendale Baptist Church where he served as a Deacon for many years and as a member of various church committee on numerous occasions. He was a dedicated Bible student and taught the Senior Men’s Bible class for many years. He was also the Boy Scout Leader of the Glendale Troop for a number of years.

Elmer, as he was known, was a very versatile man. He learned farming in his youth and became a conservationist with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the height of the depression. Returning home, he went to work in the textile mills learning textiles, working at Glendale and Arkwright Mills for the larger part of his life. He was employed at Glendale Mills until the mill was closed at which time he went to Arkwright Mills, Catewood Plant, from which he retired.

Elmer had learned the art of masonry and worked as a part time brick mason, working for home owners in and around the Glendale/Clifton area. He did a considerable amount of brick work for my dad. He was one of the best “fireplace/chimney” masons I ever knew. The ones he built really worked! They operated without smoking up the inside of the home as many would do. He studied the art of taxidermy and became Glendale’s taxidermist, mounting prized kills for sportsman in the area.

Elmer married another Spartanburg native, Mabel Burgess Rhinehart, the daughter of Isaac Vincent and Mary Burgess Rhinehart. They were the parents of six children; four daughters, Mary Ann, Doris M, Linda Ruth and Kay Willis, two sons; John and James Willis. They lived on the mill village, buying their home on Highland Street when the homes were sold to the employees in the 1950s. Mabel was a quite, reserved Christian lady of great integrity. She had a warm smile that could befriend an absolute stranger. She was a faithful wife, mother and member of the Glendale Baptist Church.

Mabel died in the Spartanburg General Hospital Tuesday, January 13, 1976 at the age of 60. She was survived by her husband, children and one sister; Mrs. Maggie Bates of Columbia; three brothers, Howard Rhinehart of Glendale, James and McKay Rhinehart of Canton, N. C.; fourteen grandchildren and one great grandchild. Funeral Services were held at the Glendale Baptist Church with interment following in the Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery.

Elmer died Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at his home. He was 94 years of age. Survivors included four daughters; Mary Ann Mahafee of Cowpens, S, C., Doris M. Cox of Duncan, S.C., Kay(Sis) Motts of Pacolet, S.C. and Linda Ruth Smith of Glendale; two sons, John (Ike) Willis of Cowpens and James E. Willis of Denver, N.C.: two sisters, Frances Wright of Spartanburg and Naomi Childress of Cowpens; fifteen grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. He was predeceased by five brothers; Delbert, Paul, Gary, Frank and Ernest Willis; one sister, Ruth Willis Crocker. (this writer’s sister in-law) He was also predeceased by a great granddaughter, Claudia Jordan Rose Cox. Funeral services were held at the Glendale Baptist Church with interment following in the Zion Hill Baptist Church Cemetery.

Elmer was a true Christian gentleman, highly respected and had a loving family. The George and Marcella Willis family, a wonderful people, have been dear friends of this writer and his parents and family dating back into the early 1900s.

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