Obituary of Barbara Willis
Barbara was born February 17, 1930 in Saint Petersburg, FL to the late Virgil and Virginia Knight.
She was a graduate of Gibbs High School and attended Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida. Barbara graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education. She earned a Master’s degree from Ball State University in Mathematics.
Barbara began her teaching career after graduation at Monroe High School in Cocoa, Florida. It was there that she met her husband of 65 years Early A. Willis Jr. They were married in 1955 and began traveling the United States and abroad due to his Air Force career. While assigned at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Barbara found employment as a mathematician working on the Air Force’s Super Sonic Flight project. In 1960 while stationed in Tokyo, Japan Barbara and Earl welcomed a daughter, Desiree LaJeanne to their family. Barbara was active with the NCO Wives Club as the Vice President and Treasurer. She also volunteered at the local orphanage teaching math.
In 1965, Earl left the Air Force and they settled in her hometown of Saint Petersburg, FL. It was there that Barbara resumed her teaching career at 16 Street Jr. High. She taught 7th and 8th grade mathematics, was the advisor to the Student Council, the Honor Society and coached the Majorettes and Flag Corp. In 1972, Barbara transferred to Pinellas Park Middle School teaching 7th grade Math where she served until her retirement in 1987. During her tenure with Pinellas County Schools, she was awarded County Teacher of the Year and was a runner up for State Teacher of the Year. In retirement, Barbara volunteered with Bayfront Medical Center for over 5 years. She worked in the gift shop and managed the gift cart that travelled the hospital floors serving patients and their families.
Barbara was a faithful member of First Institutional Baptist Church and a loyal supporter of the Bethune Cookman University Alumni Association. She and Earley were local HS School Basketball supporters as well as NBA and NFL fans. They could often be seen exercising as they walked the Tyrone Square Mall or frequenting popular restaurants in the Tampa Bay Area. Barbara was a beloved mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend.
On Tuesday, January 2, 2024, the Lord called his good and faithful servant home. She is survived by her daughter Desiree Babbs (John); granddaughter Jasmine Babbs; and a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.
Barbara was preceded in death by her husband of 65 years Earley A. Willis Jr. and siblings Virgil Knight Jr., Wilhelmena K. Murphy, Queenester Carter, Calvin C. Knight Sr., Thelma K. Evans, and Leo W. Knight.
The family is requesting donations in lieu of flowers be sent to Bethune-Cookman University in honor of Barbara Knight Willis. Link for donations: https://bit.ly/BWillisMemorial
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Barbara Willis, please visit Tribute Store