John T. Willits

1911 - 2004


Their Story

John Thornton Willits was born on July 27, 1911, to Charles and Emma Willits.[1] He grew up in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, with one sister and two step-siblings. He eventually moved to Davenport, Iowa where he worked at the Iowa Soldiers Orphans Home, also known as The Annie Wittenmyer Home. He completed service in the US Navy as a Lieutenant Commander and was awarded the Silver Star during WWII.[2]

Willits enlisted in the US Navy and eventually reported to the Navy Receiving Station at Norfolk, Virginia in May 1941.[3] Willits served on the USS Cecil (APA-96), assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.[4]

The USS Cecil (APA-96) was an amphibious assault ship of the US Navy designed to transport troops, combat equipment, and land them safely on hostile shores.[5] The USS Cecil was engaged in two Asiatic-Pacific Campaigns at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, both taking place in 1945. The USS Cecil was awarded two battle stars for service in WWII. Battle stars were issued to US Navy warships for meritorious participation in battle.

USS Cecil, circa 1945. (photo courtesy US Naval History and Heritage Command)
USS Cecil, circa 1945. (photo courtesy US Naval History and Heritage Command)

As a member of the USS Cecil, Willits was awarded the Silver Star.[6] The Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces.[7] It is awarded for gallantry in action.

After returning from service Willits married Ruth Lidster in 1960 in Peoria, Illinois.[8] He was the sole proprietor of Willits Appraisal. He was active in the real estate and appraisal community as a member of the Appraisal Institute, National Association of Realtors, Iowa Association of Realtors, Senior Member American Society of Appraisers, Certified General Real Property Appraisers.[9] Willits was also a Past President of Davenport Board of Realtors, Past Commander of American Legion Post 26, and a member of Davenport Elks Lodge 298.

At the time of his passing on December 9, 2004 at the age of 93, Willits had two children, two step-children, eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.[10] He was interred in burial at the National Cemetery at Rock Island Arsenal on December 13, 2004.


[1] Ancestry

[2] Home of Heroes

[3] Navy Muster Rolls

[4] Ancestry

[5] Naval History and Heritage Command

[6] Quad-City Times

[7] Naval History and Heritage Command

[8] The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

[9] Iowa Chapter of the Appraisal Institute

[10] Quad-City Times