Gil Willson passed away on June 20, 2021, after spending a wonderful weekend with friends, speaking with each of his children, and eating one hell of a sub from Jersey Mikes. With his trademark painter’s pants and wild hair, “Big Daddy” was a force to be reckoned with who touched so many lives with his infectious laugh, curious mind, and enormous heart.
He was born in Washington, DC but make no mistake: Gil was from Layhill. He took great pride in the illustrious pedigree of the Willson family and lived up to the name by becoming nothing short of a modern-day renaissance man: he was a builder, a pilot, a potter; a horseman, a world traveler, a basketball referee. Whether he excelled at any of these pursuits is still up for debate, but any questions about his capabilities were always met with a quick retort: “Is my last name Willson?” or “I graduated from Transylvania University!”
Always a voracious reader, Gil fancied himself a writer in his later years and often claimed to be taking notes for his great American novel. His annual holiday letter was the stuff of legend, and he loved regaling readers with grammatically questionable stories of his house almost burning down (Jeff’s fault) or his chances of dating Taylor Swift (slim).
But more than anything else, Gil took immense joy in his friends, family, and community. The “Mayor of Sandy Spring” took care of his people, plowing snowy driveways, offering much-needed laughs, and employing anyone who needed a job. In the wake of his wife Bonnie’s sudden death many years ago, Gil emerged as the steadfast handler of crisis – a person we could all turn to in a time of need. His methods may have been unorthodox, but he was the one we all counted on: the one who showed up, time and again, to fix things, big and small.
Gil is survived by his children, Missy, Jennie and Jeff; his siblings Kim, Carter, Brian, and Drew; his beloved grandchildren; and many cherished nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. The last great love of his life, Greta, passed away earlier this year. They are certainly together now, having a laugh and looking down on us with a smile.
In true form, Gil’s dying wish was to throw one last epic barn party. So please join us for a celebration of his life on July 31st at 4pm at his home in Sandy Spring. In lieu of flowers, you can honor Gil’s memory by making a donation to Musicians on Call in his name:
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