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Obituary: Ronald Rae Willis Jr.

Ronald Rae Willis Jr. was born Nov. 12, 1983, to Ronald Sr. and Jean (Edgar) Willis in Grayling, Michigan. He was baptized at Greensky Hill, with godparents Jim and Thelma Carothers. Ronald grew up in Gaylord, Michigan, where he enjoyed hunting, fishing, playing football, basketball, baseball, bowling and darts. Ronald excelled at academics in high school and was a dedicated football player (All County 1999; All State Honorable Mention 2000; Captain 2001; and All State 2001). Ronald was recruited by the University of Michigan, and after he graduated from Gaylord High School in 2002, he played on Michigan’s offensive line.

Ronald worked for Victories Casino/Odawa as a slot attendant and also attended North Central Michigan College in Petoskey. At an NCMC Anishinaabemowin language class in 2004, Ronald met Crystal (Crissy) Greensky. They were close friends for several years and started dating in 2011.

Ronald moved to Battle Creek, Michigan in 2009, where he worked as an operations

shift manager. In 2011, Crissy took a job in her hometown of Cloquet and Ronald

relocated to be with her. Together they had two amazing children, Coby and Winnie, and Ron made Cloquet his home. Ronald attended Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, where he received an associate degree in science in 2014. He then transferred to the University of Minnesota Duluth and graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in statistics and actuarial science, and double-majored in mathematics. After his UMD graduation, Ronald returned to Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College to work for his community as the youth education outreach coordinator at the Environmental Institute.

Despite moving to Minnesota, Ronald always bled maize and blue — he loved all

things University of Michigan, especially returning to Michigan to attend football games with his dad.

Ronald had a deep affinity for Mother Nature. He enjoyed deer hunting, fishing, and growing his own food. Ronald also enjoyed grilling and smoking tasty meats, playing cribbage and Skip-Bo, tossing bean bags, playing and coaching Baagadowewin (traditional lacrosse), throwing darts and watching sports in general. But most of all, Ronald loved spending time with his family: participating in his children’s educational development, fostering a love of Mother Earth in his children, harvesting wild rice and maple syrup, coaching his son’s baseball team, napping with his “snuggle bug” daughter, going on long four-wheeler rides in the woods, catching Pokémon, boating and pulling the kids on the tube, camping and taking long family road trips.

Ronald passed away from natural causes at his home in Cloquet at the age of 39.

Ronald is survived by his best friend and mother of his children, Crystal Greensky; children, Coby Ray Willis and Winnie Jean Willis; father, Ronald Willis Sr. (Lori Seeley); sister, Stacy Willis (Matt Carson); nieces, Dashia Chingman, Naomi Chingman, and Katie Carson; nephew, Joseph Chingman; great-nephew, Winston Sizemore; and honorary grandparents, Patrick (deceased) and Mary Dipzinski.

He was preceded in death by his beloved mother, Jean Willis, and many family members, including his grandparents and numerous aunts and uncles.

A celebration of life will be held 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, May 25 at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet.

A celebration of Ronald’s life was also planned for 11 a.m. Friday, May 19 at Greensky Hill Indian United Methodist Church in Charlevoix, Michigan, with a luncheon to follow in Susan Hall.

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