Willie passed away peacefully on August 28, 2022, following a cancer diagnosis two years ago. He was at home with his wife Dorothy Johnson and his daughter, Trisha Rice, by his side.
Willie was born at home in the Jackson Township of Pangburn Arkansas and moved to California at the age of 14. He was the son to Floyce Watson Johnson and Myrtle Susie Smith, both from Arkansas, and a brother to Pauline Propper. In 1951 his family moved to Lancaster California and soon after settled in Le Grand, CA. He graduated from Merced High School in 1955 and began his 30+ year career with PG&E in 1960 as a truck driver.
He married Janice Wiley in 1963 and had two daughters, Laurie and Trisha. They settled in Los Banos to raise their children until they divorced in 1979. He has three grandchildren from Trisha; Ryan Farnsworth, Jeff and Laura Pascua. Willie is preceded in death by his daughter Laurie Johnson who passed away during a skydiving accident in 1989 and his grandson Ryan Farnsworth who passed away in 2019 of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
In 1983 he married Kitty Collins and became the stepfather to Kathi Franklin, Benny DeWitt, Patty Fishback, Susie DeWitt, Tina Collins and Bill Collins and nine grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Kitty who passed away suddenly in 1997 and his stepdaughter Tina who passed away in 2016 from cancer.
He married Dorothy Thomas in 1998 and became the stepfather to Bill Thomas, grandfather to two grandchildren, Melissa Reyes and Miranda Thomas, and great-grandfather to seven great-grandchildren.
Many will remember Willie for his loyalty to family, his strong work ethic and love for his yard, woodworking, and music. In his earlier years he had quite a passion for cars and motorcycles. We will remember his smile and his loyalty to the people that he loved and his passionate spirit, and we are blessed to have been a part of his life.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Home on Sunday September 11, 2022, at Noon. Prior to the Celebration of Life, a time of reflection and remembrance from 10:00 AM to Noon will be held; this is available for those who wish to visit Willie in a private setting.
If you would like to join the live feed, it will be on Stratford Evans Funeral Home Facebook page.