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Timothy J. Willis
Rutherford - Timothy Joseph (Tim) Willis, 60, of Rutherford, NJ and South Bend, IN passed away peacefully at home on May 24, 2022. He was surrounded by his beloved immediate family: his wife of 35 years, Sue, sons Mike and ... Read More
Timothy J. Willis
Rutherford - Timothy Joseph (Tim) Willis, 60, of Rutherford, NJ and South Bend, IN passed away peacefully at home on May 24, 2022. He was surrounded by his beloved immediate family: his wife of 35 years, Sue, sons Mike and Brian, daughter-in-law Maggie, and grandson Campbell Timothy, at his side. A Jersey man through and through, he died three blocks from his childhood home with “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” by Bruce Springsteen playing in the background.
Tim was born on December 4, 1961, in Passaic, NJ to the late Benedict Patrick Jr. (Bub) and Catherine (Kay) Willis. He was preceded in death by his sister, Maureen.
A lifelong resident of Rutherford, NJ, Tim was the eighth of ten children in a loving Irish Catholic family. He was a proud Rutherfordian and 1980 Rutherford High School graduate. Tim was a man in full—an empathetic, intelligent, athletic, demonstrated leader even from a young age. He was Senior Class President, voted Most Likely to Succeed by his classmates, and an exceptional basketball player, receiving 1st Team All-League and Honorable Mention All-County honors. Gregarious, welcoming, thoughtful, and warm, Tim was a larger-than-life figure revered by his family, friends, and colleagues alike.
In addition to his immediate family, Tim is survived by siblings, siblings-in-law, and their spouses: JoEllen Willis and Doug Rose; Kim Willis and Basil Irwin; Pat Willis; Fran Willis White; Jeane Willis; Ben Willis (Madeleine); Jerry Willis; Dan Willis (Karen); Christian Campilii (Lynn); and Allison Sapp (Jay). He was also a devoted uncle to his many nieces and nephews: Jamie Willis-Rose (Maram); Patrick Willis (Sheona), Caroline McCarthy (Meghann), Austin Willis (Nicole), and Kate Willis; Conor and Patrick White (Hannah), and Alisa Hoover (Chase); Kathryn and Mary Willis; Marissa Gioia (Bryce), Katie, Sydney, and Gabrielle Campilii; and Justin and Kevin Sapp. Lastly, he is survived by two grand-nephews, Noah and Arran Willis.
Upon graduation from the University of Notre Dame in 1984, Tim worked in the financial services industry at Arthur Andersen, PaineWebber, and UBS. Tim’s authenticity, integrity, and willingness to step up to any and all challenges garnered deep respect amongst his colleagues and led to him wearing many hats. Throughout his career at UBS he was entrusted with critical roles, most notably Director of Security Services for the Americas during 9/11 and Head of Corporate Real Estate Americas before joining the Wealth Management team as a Managing Director. In 2014, Tim made the difficult, deeply altruistic decision to give back to the alma mater he so cherished. He joined the University of Notre Dame as a Senior Director in University Relations. There he spent the final eight years of his career and life working to further Notre Dame’s mission as a force for good. For Tim, the relationships he made were the most cherished aspect of his career. At every juncture, he made lifelong friends and mentored many. He was known to empower employees to pursue dreams beyond their current position, teaching important life lessons to countless colleagues along the way.
Notre Dame was not only his employer and alma mater, but also a source of joy, pride, and identity. He could be found cheering on student-athletes any night of the week and no one ever left a Tim and Sue Willis tailgate hungry. They welcomed Irish fans and competitors alike, building friendships over meatball sandwiches, Martin’s fried chicken, and red Solo cups. Still, his loudest cheers could be heard in the Purcell Pavilion, watching his son, Brian (ND ‘16), win the Bengal Bouts twice in his college career.
The same welcoming attitude extended to the Willis family homes. Their annual Christmas parties in Rutherford are famous around town, and their guest rooms in South Bend are full to bursting on football weekends. Many of their children’s friends consider the Willis residence a home away from home—Tim and Sue are second parents to many of their sons’ friends. Tim reinforced these relationships and touched hundreds of lives as a St. Mary’s CYO and Rutherford Recreation basketball coach in the ‘90s and ‘00s. He found a natural home in coaching roles, both in the office and on the court. In another life, he might have been a coach full-time—a dream later fulfilled vicariously through his oldest son, Mike.
Tim also had a multi-generational relationship with Princeton Football, and was a fixture at games for decades. He cheered on the Tigers with his dad, Bub (PU ‘47), at old Palmer Stadium, and Bub taught Tim the words to the Princeton Cannon Song. Years later, Mike would go on to play and coach football at Princeton, where he is currently the offensive coordinator. Tim would greet his son two hours before each kickoff with a pregame pep talk and hug before he went into the stadium. Once Mike became a coach, Tim always sat in the top of the stands just below the press box, in the closest possible spot to where Mike was calling the plays. He and Sue also brought their tailgate talents to Lot 21 and formed lifelong bonds with fellow Tiger parents. They are both charter members of the Princeton Tailgating Hall of Fame.
Tim lived a life defined by his generosity and faith, and he supported many charities and individuals in need. He was a passionate trustee and Vice-Chairman of Andean Health & Development (AHD), an organization that builds self-sustaining hospitals and trains healthcare workers in rural Ecuador to provide life-saving services to many in need. He was a Great Big Kid for the local Boys and Girls Club, and he supported Holiday of Hope and numerous organizations for cancer treatment and research.
There are many ways in which Tim will be missed. We will miss Chef Tim whipping up burgers, “Taylors,” and Tim’s Famous Chicken. We will miss him peering over his glasses from his chair in the living room while reading the Sunday paper. We will miss his mischievous smile and gregarious laugh after telling a hilarious story about his days in Flanner Hall. We will miss “Gup” and “Mr. Exit.” We will miss salty zingers and the concept of being “over-hungry.” We will miss lazy summer days at the Jersey Shore and the pool. We will miss his legendary motivational texts that made you believe you could conquer the world. We will miss his sports-related superstitions (especially his Lucky Camo Hat) and the thrill of celebrating a football win with him. We will miss both his booming voice in a crowd and quiet wisdom on long car rides. We will miss the unique sound of his larger-than-life footsteps walking through the front door. We will miss his kindness and selflessness. Tim Willis was a true giant who never made anyone feel small.
Tim often said that he doesn’t like the phrase “lost the battle to cancer.” And Tim did not lose. He won. He danced at his son and daughter-in-law’s wedding, and he met his grandson, Campbell Timothy. His fight with cancer did not define him—despite the challenges, he filled every day with his love of family, generosity of spirit, and passion for his many interests. For the Willis family, every minute of that time has been a win. The outpouring of love from every corner of Tim’s life during his final months reinforces the tremendous impact he made on so many lives. Tim, we will carry your spirit forward, and the world is better having had you in it.
In lieu of flowers, please buy a friend dinner, pray for those who have no one to pray for them, or consider donating to three institutions near and dear to Tim’s heart: Andean Health & Development, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the University of Notre Dame.
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We encourage you to share your most beloved memories of Timothy here, so that the family and other loved ones can always see it. You can upload cherished photographs, or share your favorite stories, and can even comment on those shared by others.
PLEASE NOTE: The reproduction of any copyrighted images is forbidden without express written permission from the copyright holder. We reserve the right to delete, without warning or notice, any image in violation of any copyright laws.
By subscribing to email updates, you will receive two daily updates containing all new stories, photos, condolences, and more. You will also receive a one-time email, one week prior to the anniversary of death. The email will only serve as a reminder should you choose to connect with the family at what will no doubt be a difficult time.
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