By Don Willis
Under a beautiful but hot Akron, Ohio sun, in one of the most beautiful seasons, with flowers in full bloom, the diseased body of Frankie Willis was laid in the grove in a very imposing pastoral setting. Warren Berkely, who is married to a niece who once lived with Lewis and Frankie and now preaches in Highlands, Texas, gave comforting Scriptures at the grove, and the dismissal prayer was led by Mike Willis, a brother-in-law.
Frankie Jean Flanagan married Lewis Willis, faithful gospel preacher, a little over 30 years ago. This marriage union was a very close knit one, with cherished moments of marital happiness. Her support enabled Lewis to faithfully pursue his work as a gospel preacher, lifting him in his emotionally low periods and keeping him humble when he felt too important.
To this happy union were born three children who are all Christians and happily married: Andrea Y. Middleton, A. Scott Willis, and Angela L. Turnbow. Also, there are three grandchildren: Cameron Middleton, Brandon Willis, and Monica Jean Turnbow, all born in the some year. Monica will wear her grandmother’s middle name. Such a show of affection and appreciation has never been so experienced in the lifetime of this writer. Hundreds of sympathetic Christians and friends from the radio audience come into the funeral home the day prior to the funeral to lift the hearts of the family. The beautiful floral gifts surrounded the walls, and were later sent to the local elderly care homes. Food for the family overflowed. How greatly these people expressed their love, appreciation and support!
Local evangelist William Foist, who often accompanies Lewis on his weekly Sunday morning radio program, read the fitting Proverbs 31, the exaltation of the godly woman, followed by many edifying personal words of love and comfort.
Cecil Willis, a brother-in-law, in his venerable and invincible manner set forth the wonderful comfort and hope of the Christian. God is the source of all comfort, and has assured us of his love and compassion.
Donald Willis, a brother-in-law, spoke regarding the charge of Paul, “Run, that ye may obtain” or “Run to Win.” While many run with “uncertainty” regarding Christ, commitment and direction, Frankie Willis knew her God-given responsibility. She was a Christian. She supported her husband in his labors. She was a concerned mother, and led all of her children through the difficult years of teenager uncertainty to responsible adulthood. She was a winner! Frankie did not attempt to fit the “preacher’s wife” mold, but was true to her wifely duty. Once, at a difficult financial period as preachers often experience, Lewis entered into business. Frankie expressed her concern for the family direction and desired that he return to full time work as an evangelist. This is when the family moved to Akron, and truly this has been one of the most wonderful works in their preaching life. When Frankie’s condition was diagnosed as terminal, everyone was so despondent. Frankie remarked to me over the phone, “it looks like we must begin to practice regarding death what we have been preaching.” She exemplified such a remarkable poise, composure and trust becoming an outstanding example of the manner in which a Christian should face death. Sure, she had her moments, as did Christ in Gethsemane, in which she wept many tears; but was sustained in the hour of death by on undying trust knowing that God would keep that which was committed unto him.
George LeMasters, gospel preacher and close personal friend, read the emotionally packed letter written by Lewis in tribute to his wife on their thirtieth wedding anniversary. There were no dry eyes left as the love for a husband toward his wife and the despair over her physical dilemma were felt.
As her death drew near, sitting on the edge of the bed and surrounded by those held very near, this husband encouraged his dying wife to loose his hand and reach up and take the hand of Jesus . . . and she relaxed, closed her eyes, and moved into that realm that we call death. “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, p. 471
August 4, 1988