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Caregiver Café


100-year-old Morning Pointe of Calhoun resident shares legacy of service from Australia to Georgia

photo of Joan Willis and her husband, Hal

Service has been a constant in the life of Joan Willis, a resident at Morning Pointe of Calhoun, Georgia. And over the course of her 100 years, she has touched many lives.


The Land Down Under

Joan was born on Feb. 6, 1923, in Mackay, on the East coast of Australia in the state of Queensland. She still has the Aussie accent. Joan’s father was a councilman, and Joan fondly remembers the family beach house.

“We lived in the country, and I grew up with five brothers,” Joan shared. “It was kind of wild.”

Joan attended the local elementary school and high school, where she learned shorthand and typing. She was 16 when World War II broke out. When she graduated, she went to work for an accountant, then for the local government, and then for the Red Cross.

It was at the Red Cross that she met her husband, Hal Willis. He was an American serving as a weather forecaster for the U.S. Air Force. The two fell in love and married in 1944. Joan couldn’t follow him immediately when he returned to the United States, but she eventually made the two-week trip by ship to San Francisco to be reunited with her husband.


photo of Joan as a young woman
Joan as a young woman

Learning a New Culture

From California, the couple moved to Dallas, Texas. There, they welcomed their son John.

“I found that the people in Texas were very friendly,” Joan remembers of her time there.

Next, the Willis family moved to Albany, Georgia, where their son Timothy was born.

When Hal was stationed in Japan, Joan moved yet again. This time, since she wasn’t allowed to go to Japan with her husband, she went to Ohio to live with her mother-in-law. It was fortuitous timing.

Hal’s family had recently been through a difficult time, and his mother and sister started going to a local Seventh-day Adventist church. The congregation’s Dorcas Society (church-based charity ministries) provided practical help for them. Joan was impressed.

“Joan was always service-oriented,” shared Joan’s daughter-in-law, Barbara Willis.

“Our family always helped the needy when I was growing up,” said Joan. “I felt that the church should be doing that too.”

Joan was also impressed with the friendliness of the church members and their theology and soon joined the church as a full member. She would go on to dedicate much of the rest of her life to church ministry.


Church Ministries

When Hal returned from Japan, he was stationed in Marietta, Georgia, so the family reunited there. The whole family became Seventh-day Adventist, even though there was not a church in Marietta. But no problem – they became involved in starting a new church! They also welcomed a new child, Bridget.

Hal was transferred again to Okinawa, Japan, and the whole family went this time. Joan got involved with the SDA church in the city of Shuri, leading the Dorcas Society there and serving as the president of the Naha Chapel Guild.

The family once again returned to Marietta, and Joan became well-known in the church as a teacher of the Primary Sabbath school for children ages 8-12. And of course, community service stayed close to her heart. During this time, she and Hal also had their fourth and final child, daughter Leslie.

When Leslie was around age 7, Joan was able to return to Australia to visit her family there. Imagine her surprise and delight when she found out that her family had sold part of the land they owned… to the Adventist Church. And now a church sits on that property!

The Willises moved to Calhoun, Georgia, when Hal retired from the Air Force. They joined the Calhoun Seventh-day Adventist church, and Joan remained very active in church life, teaching Sabbath school and serving as church clerk for 20 years and church secretary for five years.

Joan noticed that sometimes people in need would show up at the church asking for help. So, she started to bring in supplies to have on hand to assist. That small stash grew, and due in large part to Joan’s influence, the church started partnering with the Atlanta Food Bank. Joan oversaw the food pantry and would drive to Chattanooga to pick up food from the large distribution center there and transport it back to Calhoun.

One year for Mother’s Day, Hal blessed Joan with a wonderful gift – a blue Chevy truck with lots of room to transport the food!

The Calhoun church eventually moved locations, and included in the new building was a larger food pantry, thanks to Joan’s vision and passion of service.


photo of Joan at Morning Ponte of Calhoun
Joan at Morning Ponte of Calhoun

Coming to Morning Pointe

Hal passed away in 2005, and Joan’s son John and daughter-in-law watched out for her. After she had a stroke, however, she started needing more care.

In July 2021, Joan moved to Morning Pointe of Calhoun Assisted Living. Her family continues to visit her frequently.

“The people here are very nice and good to me,” Joan shared. “I like it here. I don’t have to cook.”

Barbara added, “They take good care of her.”

In looking back on her life, Joan shared she is thankful to have participated in so much ministry and to see her children be successful.

Joan, it’s our privilege to give back to you as you have cared for so many people over so many years. Thank you for being part of our Morning Pointe family!

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