Willoughby (Bill) Andrew Lee Jr., 93, passed away Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, Washington following a brief illness. He was surrounded by family and friends in his final hours.
Bill was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia September 20th, 1924. His parents Willoughby Andrew Lee Sr. and Agnes Sutherland Lee moved thereafter to Midland, Texas and then to Missouri before settling in Iowa City, Iowa when Bill was in elementary school. As a teenager he drove a lime truck of his father’s business, picking up lime in Muscatine and delivering it to farms near Iowa City. He also worked part-time for the Novotny’s bicycle store as a bike mechanic. Bill attended the Iowa City public schools where he graduated from Iowa City High in 1943.
Enlisting into the Marines in 1943 shortly after high school, Bill served two years of active duty during World War II in the Pacific Theatre and aboard the USS Maryland as an anti-aircraft machine gunner. He was honorably discharged in December of 1945. In his later years Bill began reminiscing about his war experiences, which he shared with clarity to a younger generation.
After a brief self-guided tour of the United States and back in Iowa, Bill started college classes at the University of Iowa. After a year and the need for financial support, he left college to work a year in Waterloo, IA at the John Deere Foundry. Ultimately he re-settled in Iowa City employed as a carpenter for Frank Burger Construction. In 1950 he became self-employed as Lee Construction. He continued his work in that trade for 68 more years until his death.
In 1955 Bill met the love of his life, Joyce (Kaestner) Christiansen, while doing carpentry repairs to her apartment. After a brief courtship with Joyce he proposed and they were married February 3, 1956 in Lamoni, IA. Joyce, a widow with a four year old son, gave Bill a ready-made family. Bill and Joyce moved to Coralville where they grew the family with two daughters and two more sons.
In addition to his trade, Bill became an active community member. He was a 10 year member of the Coralville Volunteer Fire Department and the local Jaycees. To overcome his fear of public speaking he joined the Iowa City Toastmasters. Bill co-chaired the successful Coralville School District merger campaign with the larger Iowa City Community School District. In 1960 at the Iowa State Fair, Bill was awarded the Governor of Iowa Lifesaving Award for reviving a young boy drowning in a deep water filled utility ditch and performing a recently learned process from his fire department training known as Rescue Breathing. We know now that as part of the CPR process.
Always the adventurer, Bill, Joyce and family pulled up roots in 1972 after having moved to Iowa City in 1968, and relocated to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, then ultimately to the larger nearby Spokane, Washington. Bill continued the Lee Construction “West” version of his business and that soon morphed into serious investing into residential rental properties. Bill and Joyce joined the local rental association where they remained active the rest of their lives. Additionally Bill joined the building trades union and worked on larger commercial projects in eastern Washington as well as Seattle. He and Joyce enjoyed “antiquing” for unusual items and well made furniture.
Bill was a mentor of construction trade skills and strong work ethic to his children and grandchildren and expected excellence in both. In Iowa and Washington he developed life-long friendships and he was known for his honesty and genuine candor. After the passing of Joyce in 2012, he started to travel with trips to central Europe, England/ Scotland, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Mexico, and Kansas City with friends and family members. He also made several trips back to Iowa City to see family and old friends.
Preceding Bill in death were wife Joyce, his parents, grandson Worth Roseberry, mother-in-law Iola Kaestner, his brother Robert Lee and sister-in-law Dorothy Lee, his sister Margaret (Lee) Mahanna and brother-in-law Wayne Mahanna and brother-in-law Ward Kaestner.
Surviving Bill are his children Stephen (Susan) Lee of Solon, IA, Rebecca (Chuck) Roseberry of Spokane, Jan Thompson of Olympia, WA, Thomas Lee of Seattle, WA, and Michael Lee of Spokane. His fourteen grandchildren are Samuel (Chelsea Gudgeon) Lee, Amy Lee, Kelvin (Ashley) Lee, Jesse Roseberry, Beth Anne (Brett) Bretthauer, Samuel (Derek Hutchinson) Thompson, Jacob Roseberry, Andrew Roseberry, Margaret Thompson, Christian Roseberry, John Roseberry, Elijah Roseberry, Sarah Roseberry and Edna Roseberry. His great-grandchildren are Milo, Marin and Rowan Ashbacker, Henry Lee, and two more expected this year. Additionally surviving are Bill’s nieces and nephews, sister-in-law Dorothy (Kaestner) Gutgsell with husband Mark of Coeur d” Alene, ID and Joyce’s aunt and uncle, Rosabelle and Gilbert (Gib) Howard of Aurora, CO.
Bill’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 26th at 10:30 AM at a location yet to be determined and that information will be published in the week ahead of the service date. Hennessey Funeral Home will update the information on their website when it becomes known.
Information regarding memorial contributions will be stated in the later obituary notice as well.
To leave a note for the family please visit hennesseyfuneralhomes.com