Executive stayed busy with business, civic work
On Monday, Robert Willison’s family finally will learn the answer to a mystery that has lasted more than six decades.
During Mr. Willison’s funeral service, Pastor Chris Taylor at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church will tell the family how long Mr. Willison knew his wife, Betty, before they married on Feb. 3, 1945, a secret the couple would never reveal.
“We’re guessing it might be a couple weeks. It couldn’t be much longer than that,” son James Willison said. “I’m guessing for their generation, it probably was a very short period of time.”
Robert M. Willison of O’Hara died in his home Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, of heart failure. He was 94.
Mr. Willison met his future wife in Washington when he was in the Navy and while she was a statistician for the American Red Cross, in what the family called a “whirlwind World War II courtship.”
Mr. Willison worked at Mellon Bank from 1948 until retiring in the early 1980s as a vice president. While at Mellon and beyond into retirement, Mr. Willison owned Metropolitan Realty Service, a real estate appraisal company.
Mr. Willison was active in O’Hara municipal government for nearly 30 years, including serving on township council. He was a member of the pension board and up to just a couple of months ago, vice chairman of the zoning board.
Mr. Willison owned and restored several antique cars, including a 1931 Model A that he drove until the summer of 2013. He had a full model train display in his home.
When his wife died in 2005, just after the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary, Mr. Willison told the family that he revealed the answer to the oft-asked courtship question to the Rev. Lee Nichols, an associate minister at the church, giving the minister a handwritten letter.
“He told us, ‘I told the pastor, you’ll find out someday,’ ” Willison said.
Because Nichols will be away Monday, he gave Taylor the letter. The pastor said he will read it to the family during the service, Willison said.
Mr. Willison is survived by sons, James Willison of Bethel Park and Robert Willison of Bloomington, Ind.; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty.
Friends will be received from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday in Weddell-Ajak Funeral Home, 100 Center Ave., Aspinwall. A memorial service will be conducted 11 a.m. Monday in Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, 384 Fox Chapel Road.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or [email protected].