Floyd “Ron” Willis, III
November 24, 1937 - August 12, 2020
Our BAMC, and community at large, is a much sadder place today with the passing of Floyd Willis III (a.k.a. “Ron”) on Wednesday, August 12. He had heart surgery at University of Maryland on July 13 and never recovered following that procedure. Ron was admitted to the Bar in 1964 and thus began the legend.
Cleopatra had Marc Anthony, Romeo had Juliet, Fred had Ginger, Rhett had Scarlett and Ron had Carolyn. Ron and his beautiful wife have been married for 54 years and have known one another for more than 60 years. During their marriage, she was always the ying to his yang. She made it look easy… which likely was not the case! He had the touch of a bull in a China shop (on the exterior) and Carolyn had the grace and charm of Princess Grace. Ron reveled in his longstanding reputation as a curmudgeon, but many believe he embraced that persona simply because it allowed his wife to shine as the lovely and gracious lady that she is.
They have two children, Eric and Lara and four wonderful grandchildren, Casey, Anna, Grace & Johnny. Ron was at his best when he was surrounded by his grandkids!
In addition to his family, there were other, many other loves in his life. First and foremost were his dogs. More specifically, German Shepherds. There was Molson, a beast of a Shepherd whose paws were matched in size only by his heart. Then came Parker who was every bit the love of Ron’s life as Molson. After that came Bodie, who has been out of sorts waiting for his best friend to come home from the hospital. Ron’s many friends learned early on that dinner at his house always meant sharing that meal with his dogs, one forkful at a time.
He also loved vintage Jaguars. He has owned 10 various vintage Jags over the years, but as of this writing he has four classic Jags; 60’ MK II, 67’ XKE, 66’ MK 10 and 90’ XJS .This oldest of these is kept at his home in Sun Valley and is almost as iconic as the town itself. But because Ron’s tastes were eclectic he was equally proud to run around Sun Valley in his original 1978 Chevy Suburban, affectionately known as “The Beast.” Each of those two cars is well known to the town’s residents, as were Ron and Carolyn. He was happiest when the old Suburban was stuffed with his friends going off for a day of skiing. The very many people who were invited by Ron to spend time with him in Sun Valley over the last 30 plus years, whether for golf in the summer or the legendary slopes in the winter, learned the true meaning of graciousness and hospitality.
Harry Truman famously said if you want a friend in DC get a dog. Ron loved his friends as much as he loved his family and his many dogs. He did so without conditions and without questions. Once you were admitted in to that circle of friendship Ron could not do enough for you. He was blessed to have very many friends, some of them since grade school. This circle of friends is too large to count or name. Ron was a moving force for our Bar because he made it a point to reach to so many people, young and not so young, to make certain they felt included as part of that circle of friends. The golf group today is a direct result of Ron inviting a wide variety of lawyers to become part of it. He was passionate about everyone he called a friend and everything he did. His combined love of his friends with his love (and sometimes hatred) of golf allowed for the admission of so many different people in the wonderful golf group that carries the tradition on today. While many have been invited to attend either the Spring or Fall outings, there was a code of conduct to be adhered to if you wanted a second invitation. Due process was afforded to those few who were not invited back after their debut. One merely had to call Ron and ask to be permitted to attend another event, despite whatever conduct had occurred in getting on to the list of not reinvited. He would promptly reply “No” before then hanging up the phone. He did not waste words on such things as “Good Bye.”
Every one of his friends knew the joy of spending time with Ron, whether on the golf course, tennis court, at his home sitting at the large dining room table in Rockville or Sun Valley (or, going back even further, the Outer Banks) and being entertained and feted in grand style. To break bread with Ron was a guaranty of delicious food, copious libations and stimulating and fun conversations. Of course, being invited also meant you were required to share your steak with Ron’s beloved dog throughout the dinner. The dinners and lively discussions often lasted well in to the evening. Until Ron got tired. He would then simply announce he was tired and march immediately to bed. That was that… The conversations and camaraderie of the assembled masses at his dining room table often continued well beyond his departure. Those were magic moments with a disparate group of people whose commonality was simply being a friend of Ron’s. He was generous to a fault and never asked for nor expected anything in return for his friendship. You knew you had fallen in to that circle of friendship as soon as he called out “Hey there, Longball” or alternatively “Hey there, Shortknocker!”
Ron was one of those rare people who was truly larger than life. He was refreshingly honest which was in stark contrast to the current ‘politically correct’ environment. He said what he thought. Whether it was in the court room, the golf course, the tennis court or any social gathering, Ron was not likely to ever be forgotten by anyone meeting him at those venues for the first time. His bark was always worse than his bite. He was, in his core, a kind and gentle bon vivant. That is not to say there weren’t occasional demonstrations of frustration caused by an errant golf ball, mishit tennis ball or bad ruling in a case! But anyone who had the pleasure of playing golf with Ron understood that by the time the 19th hole had been reached he fell back to his default mode, that being fun, loyal, a wicked sense of humor and generous to everyone he considered a friend.
Merriam Webster defines honesty as 1a : adherence to the facts, b : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct. By this definition Ron was the epitome of honest. No one ever wondered what Ron was thinking. You never had to wonder if you might have said something that offended Ron. Before you could ask the question, you would have your answer. By that same token, you never doubted that Ron considered you a friend once he invited you to share a meal and perhaps even an adult beverage.
Ron was a loyal and generous man. He loved his wife, his children and grandchildren and was generous to all. He was proud to be a lawyer in our community and perhaps even more proud to lay claim to the title of curmudgeon. No one who bothered to peel off that thin veneer ever regretted doing so. He was truly sui generis and will be remembered always by very many people as a true and dear friend.