Frederick E. "Fritz" Willits
Frederick “Fritz” E. Willits Jr. of Bellingham passed away January 28th, 2021 at his home, after a twelve year battle with metastatic prostate cancer. He lived longer than most, having many good years after his diagnosis. During the last few months his wife Marjorie “Margie” (Meyer) Willits, and son James “Jackson'' Willits, cared for him in their home of 36 years near Lake Padden. From his bedside windows, he had a view of daily activity of family, visitors, and pets. Visiting with friends was a challenge due to the pandemic and winter weather, but he could wave and talk through the window. He also regularly joined his golf buddies on Zoom, and played pub trivia online with friends.
People may remember Fritz from the Bellingham Boys and Girls Club. From 1979 until 2001 he worked with children, parents, and the community as well as fundraising in support of the Club. Fritz enjoyed playing rec league hockey with the ‘Rink Rats’, golf, and numerous other outdoor activities. He continued to play tennis at the Fairhaven Tennis Club into this past year.
He was born in Syosset, Long Island, New York to Frederick E Willits and Glenny Oelsner Willits in 1948. In his early years the family lived in Locust Valley, NY with his paternal grandparents residing nearby in Glen Cove. Many memorable summers were spent on Centre Island, with extended family at his maternal grandparents’ home.
Fritz attended Friends Academy in Locust Valley, NY and then graduated in 1967 from The Gunnery (recently renamed the Frederick Gunn School) in Washington CT, where he played hockey and excelled in rowing. He participated in the 1966 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta rowing for Oyster Bay Rowing Association and won the 145 lb. doubles, 2000 meter. He later earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology at Denver University while working as a cab driver there. He loved telling funny stories about his time driving a cab. In Colorado Fritz and his cousin Jim Oelsner enjoyed motocross racing and dirt biking excursions in the desert.
While finishing his master’s degree in Vancouver, B.C. he built the foundation under his house on Valencia St. in Bellingham, later remodeling the interior. He worked as a Volkswagen mechanic before starting his career at the Boys and Girls Club.
Fritz first met Margie at the swimming dock on Lake Padden. Months later, in 1982, a mutual friend invited them to walk on the trail around the Lake. Soon they were running the Lake Padden trails together regularly. It was after one of these runs that they spotted a for sale sign in front of an old run-down house nearby. Fritz had just taken out a loan to build a garage at his Valencia St. house, but the opportunity to live near their favorite park was too good to pass up, so in October 1984 he used the garage money toward the purchase of the old house.
They were married in 1986 and Jackson was born in 1987. Several years later they began renovating the old house, doing much of the work themselves. Jackson's early years were spent in the midst of demolition and reconstruction. As a family they enjoyed all sorts of outdoor activities such as ice skating, skiing, hiking, and sailing.
In 2014 Fritz and his friend Bob Warner purchased an old restoration project––a wooden sailboat named “Seamew,” a gaff rig sloop. Both Fritz and Bob grew up on Long Island and enjoyed sharing memories of their pasts. The boat was, and still is, a beautiful sight sailing in Fairhaven and beyond.
Fritz is survived by his wife Margie, his son Jackson, and two sisters Karen (Hank) Zentgraf of Fort Collins, CO, and Phebe (Doug) Paul of Boston, MA. In addition, Margie's family: Jeff (MIndee) Meyer, Bellevue WA, Bill (Nadean) Meyer, Spokane, WA, Kathie Morton, Burlington WA, Mary (Mike) Kimmich, Bellingham,WA , Molly (Jamie) Anderson, Aberdeen WA, Niel Blanchard Yuma, AZ, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews and their families.
Paula [Meyer] Blanchard passed away in june 2019.
At Fritz’s request there will be no memorial service.
Donations may be made in Fritz’s name to the Boys and Girls Club (whatcomclubs.org)
or to Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center (nwtrc.org)