Tudor H. Willis, 86, of Malden, Mo., passed away July 7, 2003, at Three Rivers Healthcare in Poplar Bluff. He had been living independently at his home in Malden until suffering a stroke June 11.
Tudor was born November 25, 1916, in Wilson, OK. to Harry and Mattie Tudor Willis. His father played professional baseball in Oklahoma for over 25 years and Tudor played the game well into his twenties. While playing for the Blytheville Air Force Base team at a game in Senath, MO.., he happened to stop at a skating rink in Kennett with a teammate. There he met Rita Mae Cooper. They were married less than a year later on October 10, 1942, and remained happily married until Rita passed away on April 22, 1990.
Upon discharge from the service after WWII, the couple opened an auto parts store in Malden in partnership with Bob Paine of Kennett who had hired Rita as counter help during the war. The store opened in 1946 as Paine Auto Parts, but over time they bought the store and renamed it Tudor Auto Parts. Though they sold their interest many years ago the store still operates as the longest continually operated NAPA store served by the Memphis warehouse.
After giving up baseball, Tudor took up golf. He was a long-time member of Malden Country Club serving many times as club president and an avid golfer until he had to give up the game for health reasons just a few years ago. In a game where shooting your age is considered a major feat, Tudor accomplished it at least once a year for seven consecutive years.
When golf was no longer an entertainment option, Tudor turned to an old affinity for cards. He played penny ante poker every Monday for over 20 years with the same group and enjoyed it immensely. He made regular trips to Casino Aztar where he was known by practically everyone from management to staff to fellow players. He was seen frequently at Malden Country Club playing solitaire and eating a plate lunch. Both were favorite activities. He enjoyed many friendships.
Tudor served on the Dunklin County Library Board for many years as well as the Malden Housing Authority. He volunteered his time with the Green Wave Booster Club as clock and scoreboard operator for both football and basketball for much of the 1950's and 60's.
He is survived by one son, Harry Willis of Sand Springs, OK., his wife Jackie and their teenage children Erin and Kelsey. Also surviving is a brother, Rance Willis and his wife, Alice, of Allen, OK.
Visitation will be Wednesday evening, July 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Landess Funeral Home. Services will be Thursday, July 10, at 10 a.m. at the Landess Chapel. Interment will be at Memorial Park Cemetery in Malden.