Donald L. Willey


Donald L. Willey

March 25, 1927 – May 15, 2022

Donald LeRoy Willey, 95, longtime resident of Jamestown, ND, passed away May 15, 2022, at his residence in Fort Wayne, IN, where he resided since June, 2019.

Don was born March 25, 1927 to Lloyd and Josephine (Anderson) Willey. He was the fourth of twelve children. His family lived in Windsor, ND and eventually relocated to Ypsilanti, ND. He married Leone Verdie Erickson October 17, 1947. Don and Leone established a life in Jamestown and had two children. They celebrated 70 years of marriage before Leone passed away in January, 2018.

Don is survived by one son, Robert (Ann) Willey, two granddaughters, Kristen (Dan) Garde, Kara (Trevis) Hull, and one great grandson, Oliver Hull. Don is survived by four siblings: Ruth Williams, West Fargo, ND; Evelyn Steckler, Jamestown, ND; Darwin Willey, Highland Ranch, CO; and Grace Priebe, Waterloo, IA.

Don was preceded in death by his wife Leone and daughter Phyllis, his parents, Lloyd and Josephine, and seven siblings: Ruby Clemens, Esther Williams, LeRoy Willey, Lorraine Scott, Lloyd Willey, Jr., Ernest Willey and Josephine Wirrenga.

Don served in the Army from 1952–1954 and was released with honorable discharge. He drove the Amphibious Ducks for the commanding officer in Greenland during his service in the Korean Conflict.

Don was co-owner of Willey-Edinger Texaco Service Station, at the previously known, Jamestown College hill. Don founded Willey Septic Tank Service. He co-founded Wheelchair Recline Inc., having invented a unit to recline wheelchairs for nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

Don loved to play accordion. He started out playing guitar, bass, mandolin and banjo at a young age in his father’s family band. However, his favorite instrument was the accordion. Don played with the Rose Bud’s, the Frank Schardin Orchestra, the Old Tyme King’s and many other bands throughout the years. Don was featured on several recording projects with different bands and two solo projects. He had recordings on 45 RPM record singles, 8-track tapes, cassettes, 33 vinyl LPs & CDs. When with the Frank Schardin Orchestra, they had 45 RPM record singles at many juke box locations in North Dakota and nearby states. Don was inducted into the Dakota Musicians Hall of Fame in 2003.

In June 2019, Don moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to live with his son, Robert. Once in Indiana, Don and Robert joined Audiences Unlimited, entertaining audiences with musical programs in many of the area retirement and nursing homes. Don loved to be around family and especially enjoyed watching his great grandson, Oliver Hull. Don accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior in 2017 and looked forward to his “Heavenly Home.”

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

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