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Bart Wills

January 22, 1955 -
February 19, 2021

Barton “Bart” Francis Wills, 66, passed away on Friday, February 19, 2021 at the University of Chicago Medical Center surrounded by family.

 

Bart was born on January 22, 1955, the son of Betty Louise Reifsteck Wills and Creed Airol Wills.  Survivors include his daughter Rachel of Chicago, his brother B…read more

Barton “Bart” Francis Wills, 66, passed away on Friday, February 19, 2021 at the University of Chicago Medical Center surrounded by family.

 

Bart was born on January 22, 1955, the son of Betty Louise Reifsteck Wills and Creed Airol Wills.  Survivors include his daughter Rachel of Chicago, his brother Brian of Normal, his nephew Joseph “J.P.” Wills, and his sister Rebecca (Jeffery) Powell of Columbus, Georgia.  They will miss Bart dearly.

 

Bart was a life-long resident of Champaign.  He was an accomplished professional and a highly involved community member.  He was widely admired and will be greatly missed by his legion of friends and associates.

 

Bart graduated from Champaign Central High School in 1973. He earned an Associates Degree from Parkland College in Applied Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

 

After graduation from SIU, Bart returned home to serve as Director of the Champaign County Survival Skills and Youth Employment Program, and later as director of Champaign County Youth Services.  He entered the insurance field in 1982.

 

Bart began his insurance career with Prudential, moving into an equity ownership agreement with First Alliance Financial Group, Inc. in 1991.  In 2004 he continued his equity ownership with Dimond Brothers Insurance agency after its merger with First Alliance.  He was also a registered representative with LPL Financial.

 

Bart specialized in employee benefits and pension plans for businesses.  He earned the coveted designations of Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) in 1999 and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) in 2003.

 

Bart contributed to his community through both professional and social organizations.  These included the Champaign Area Life Underwriters Association as legislative chairperson and president, the Prairie Center Health System, Inc. as a contributing sponsor for the Red Ribbon anti-drug campaign, and the Champaign County Mental Health Board as a voting member.

 

Bart also served the Illinois Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors as a board member, Political Action Committee member and State Regional Director, and was a member of both the Parkland College and SIU Alumni organizations.

 

In addition, Bart served the University of Illinois Baseball Dugout Club as a committee member and president, and was a board member of the Illini Rebounders.

 

Bart was an outstanding athlete, playing as an undersized center for Champaign Central’s 1972 Big 12 conference championship football team.  He also played recreational basketball until the past year when he fell ill.  His passion, however, was slow-pitch softball.  He was one of the area’s very best for more than four decades.

 

Bart played softball through 2019 and was a key member of two Illinois Softball Association Hall of Fame teams: Gery & Al’s and English Brothers.  He was a tough and highly competitive player, while also being known for his fun-loving attitude.

 

Bart was selected to all-state softball teams, as well as multiple Twin-City championship teams and state championship teams. He culminated his career by starring for a World Championship Senior softball team in 2017 at the age of 62.

 

Bart was a diehard Cardinals fan, being a long-time season ticket holder. He also enjoyed music, cars and travel.

 

Bart was highly respected and well-known in virtually every quarter of the Champaign–Urbana community.  Friendship was a central part of Bart’s life and he had an incalculable number of friends here and throughout the country.  He was a good friend and could always be counted on when things got tough.

 

Charles Darwin once wrote that, “A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.” In this sense, Bart was a very rich man who also enriched the lives of others.

 

When all was said and done, though, the greatest joy of Bart’s life was not his work or his softball, or even his many valued friends.  It was his family and, particularly, his daughter Rachel.  She was constantly at his side throughout the difficulties of his illness, and was the beautiful embodiment of a truly loving and devoted daughter of whom he was extremely proud.

 

An open Celebration of Life will be held in August 2021 – more details to come. Private funeral services for Bart will be at Morgan Memorial Home on Friday, February 26th. Bart will be laid to rest at the Bailey Memorial Cemetery in Tolono, IL. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Condolences may be offered at www.morganmemorialhome.com.

 

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