(John) Willis Ervin was born on the family farm in Frontier County, Nebraska on September 2, 1923, the youngest child of Elmer and Clara Ervin. He passed away peacefully on February 23, 2014, at his home in Golden Pond Retirement Community, Golden, Colorado. He was 90 years old.
Willis grew up during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, which he said had a great impact on him and his life choices. He attended a one-room schoolhouse and graduated high school from the State of Nebraska School for Agriculture in Curtis, Nebraska. He won a college scholarship from the Sears Roebuck Company and attended the University of Nebraska for three semesters before being called to active duty in World War II. As a member of ROTC, he also attended Oklahoma State and Stanford Universities before being called to duty in the European Theater where he was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism under fire. After his discharge from the Army, he returned to the University of Nebraska to complete his education. He graduated in 1948 with a BS in agronomy and was a proud Cornhusker fan for the rest of his life.
Following graduation, Willis joined the Bureau of Reclamation where he spent his entire career helping the farmers and ranchers of the west be more successful through using innovative crop, water utilization and storage, and soil management practices. Growing up during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression forged his professional purpose to help the people of the west live better lives and be better stewards of the land he loved so much. He retired after 34 years of service, receiving the Department of the Interior's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.
During retirement, Willis and his wife Georgianna lived in their mountain home in Evergreen, Colorado. They enjoyed traveling (especially to see family), gardening, landscaping and building. Willis became deeply engaged in researching and sharing his family's genealogy, fine woodworking, and photography. As a member of Evergreen United Methodist Church, he served on the Board of Trustees. He also remained active in the Bureau's retiree organization and other groups of retirees in the community.
Willis is survived by Georgianna Ervin, his sweetheart of 66 years, of Golden, Colorado; three children – Bethene Ervin of Odenton, Maryland; Luanne Todd of Golden, Colorado; and Roger Ervin of Beaverton, Oregon; three grandchildren - Jessica Agee of Albany Oregon, Hillary Ervin, and Graham Ervin of Portland, Oregon; and two great-grand-children - Brennan and Kellen Agee. He is preceded in death by his two sisters, Lois Boson and Verda Ervin, and three brothers, Lloyd, Ernest, and Carl.
Services will be at 10:00, Wednesday, March 5, at Applewood Valley United Methodist Church, 2035 Ellis St., Golden, CO 80401.