Ruth Marie Willis, age 72, was born July 2, 1943 in Texarkana, Arkansas to the proud parents of Willie and Luella Fort. She spent her early childhood in Arkansas until her family relocated to Chicago, after her father received an employment opportunity in Northbrook, Illinois. From a very early age, Ruth loved to learn and devoured every book put before her in an obsession with literature—particularly mystery writers—that lasted her entire lifetime. Upon completing her education, she pursued a career in nursing, specializing in supporting the health and well-being of kidney dialysis patients. Devoted to family and an intensely responsible soul, Ruth often worked two jobs during her 25-year nursing career in order to raise her six children pretty much on her own. Once she retired, Ruth continued to work by volunteering as a teacher’s assistant with elementary school students, giving more of her personal time to help nurture impressionable minds.

In 1983, Ruth reconnected with, and later married, her soulmate from high school, “Fast Eddie” Willis, and they remained inseparable until he preceded her in death in 2014. Whether driving the highways of the Midwest or sitting and watching the deer in her yard, her favorite place was at his side, as she felt most alive when enjoying life to the fullest with her beloved. It was not unusual to find them driving 300 miles to try a new restaurant or to see a town she had read about in one of her many books; he driving, she navigating.

In 2004, Ruth and Eddie relocated to the new family home in Elgin, Illinois, where she delighted in hosting the extended family for long holiday weekends and important events. Thanksgiving at her home was her favorite of all events every year as she quarterbacked the meal preparation and arranged the seating for her 50+ guests. Ruth was a loving sister, doting mother, aunt and grandmother. But she was also a disciplined and stern spirit who spent her last days vigorously protecting the interests of her family and making sure the family legacy would continue.

Ruth Marie Willis leaves in God’s care and to cherish her memory: her sister, Mildred Rollins of Benton Harbor, MI; her cousin Arthur Harris of San Diego, CA; her sons, Kevin Fort of Baird, TX; Robert Mitchell of Chicago, IL and Derek Mitchell of Oakland, CA; her daughters, LaJuana (Kevin Sr.) Lewis of Chicago, IL; Shermish Mitchell of Elgin, IL; and Valencia (Michael) Hastings of Dolton, IL. In addition, she leaves three nieces, three nephews, ten grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, eight great-nieces, six great-nephews, and a host of great-great-grand nieces, nephews and friends.

Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, Willie and Louella Fort; her brother, W.L. Spencer; two Aunts; three cousins; and her beloved grandson, Edward Mitchell.

Service 11am January 22, 2016 at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home 305 Park St. Elgin IL, 60120 Interment will be a private burial service Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery 20953 W. Hoff Rd. Elwood IL 60421. for more information please call 847-741-1128 or

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