Florence – Mayor Frank Willis passed away on June 10, 2022 at home surrounded by his wife Marguerite, family, friends, and his beloved dogs, Bella and Cotton.
Mayor Willis was born in Bennettsville, SC on October 19, 1941, the son of Horace Eugene and Mary Frances Willis. He was raised in Darlington, SC where he learned the importance of community and helping others. Mayor Willis graduated from The University of South Carolina in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Francis Marion University.
Mayor Willis joined his father’s construction business, Willis Construction, building foundations for roads, particularly in the Pee Dee area. In time, Mayor Willis became involved in economic development, through Florence County Progress and the Florence County Economic Development Authority. Due to his leadership, Florence County was able to convince Honda to construct its manufacturing facility in Timmonsville.
Mayor Willis had a vision and a passion for addressing unmet needs in the community , which ultimately led him to run for Mayor of Florence, SC, a city he loved and in which he saw much potential. Mayor Willis faithfully served Florence from 1995-2008.
During his tenure as Mayor, he was known as a consensus and coalition builder, a practical problem solver, and a true visionary committed to the process of economic and community development. Mayor Willis laid much of the groundwork for the growth and stability that Florence and the surrounding areas currently enjoy.
Mayor Willis’ father was involved in building Darlington Raceway. Because of his father, Mayor Willis had a lifelong love of the Raceway and the sport, as well as an appreciation of their economic impact to the Pee Dee. Mayor Willis also respected the sacrifices of veterans and their families. To that end, he spearheaded the effort to build the Florence Veterans Park to honor Florence military veterans.
Mayor Willis considered his service to Florence as his crowning achievement and enjoyed mentoring and creating opportunities for those who would continue building and sustaining the community.
Above all, Frank Willis will be remembered as a fine man, a loyal friend, and a true southern gentleman. He met every person where they were, with endless graciousness and respect.
In addition to his wife Marguerite, Mayor Willis is survived by his brother Johnny (Phil); sister Martha Ray; nephew Thomas Ray; sister-in-law Lee Elmore; and nieces Marguerite and Sara Lawton Elmore, and Laurin Groover; and honorary family members Watson (Wattie) Snowden and Linnette Martin. Mayor Willis was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Mary Neal Willis Groover; and his brother-in-law Frank Elmore.
Funeral services were held at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Tuesday June 14, 2022 at 11 AM, with a lunch which followed as a celebration of life, directed by Belk Funeral Home.
Donations can be made in Mayor Willis’ memory to the Francis Marion University Education Foundation, in honor of his long service, or to the Jayne Boswell Animal Shelter in recognition of his lifelong love of all creatures, especially Labrador retrievers.
A guestbook is available online at www.belkfuneralhome.com.