Willie DeFord, 78, of Metamora, IL passed away at his residence at 2:16 am on Saturday, June 15, 2019. He was born on July 25, 1940 to Wilbert and Thelma (Diveley) DeFord in Peoria, who both preceded him in death. He married Joan Elbert at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on July 24, 1965. She survives.
Also surviving are three children, Penny DeFord-Goff (Bob Emory) of Bushnell, Laurie Mirus of Hampshire, and Russ (Becky) DeFord of Germantown Hills; four grandchildren, Courtney Goff (Tyler Earley) of East Peoria, Wren Goff (Rachael Rowe) of Mackinaw, Montana Mirus of Hampshire, and Natalie DeFord of Germantown Hills; three great-grandchildren, Cameron Kidd of Hampshire and Mariah Goff and Alexis Schappaugh, both of Mackinaw; and brother Jim (Mary) DeFord of Pekin. He was preceded in death by his sister, Mary Bennett.
Willie was a 1958 graduate of Dunlap High School and enlisted in the United States Navy. He served from 1958-1965 with his favorite stops being Norman, Oklahoma, Washington D.C., and Yokosuka, Japan. He was in weather services while enlisted, which began his lifetime fascination with the weather which always had him outside looking at the skies during tornado warnings after his family was safely downstairs.
After being honorably discharged in 1965 he returned to central Illinois to marry Joan and settled in her hometown of Metamora, which he proudly adopted as his hometown for his final 54 years of life. He was promised a job in Peoria while still in the Navy that was reneged on once he returned. He said that was one of his biggest breaks as it led him to get a job at Caterpillar, where he worked from 1965-2002, retiring as a Senior Manufacturing Manager. His retirement allowed him to keep an immaculate yard, ride his motorcycle, and attend his grandchildren’s activities. He was an active member at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where he volunteered to maintain the grounds of the church and school.
Willie was a huge Metamora Redbird fan and rarely missed a football game until his later years. He always said the best personal day he ever took at Caterpillar was in 1968 so he could see the Redbirds beat the then-rival Chillicothe Grey Ghosts. He also loved the Brooklyn Dodgers during the Duke Snider days and the Baltimore Orioles under Earl Weaver. In 2016, he was as shocked as many were when the Cubs finally won a World Series.
A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 am on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Metamora with Father Vien Van Do officiating. Recitation of the Rosary will be held at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at Mason Funeral Home Metamora Chapel with visitation to follow from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm on Tuesday at the funeral home. Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery with military rites accorded. In lieu of flowers memorials may be given to the Metamora Park District, P.O. Box 633, Metamora, IL 61548, for whom Willie spent many hours assembling playground equipment and helping maintain Black Partridge Park. Online condolences at www.masonfuneralhomes.com.
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