He was born Aug. 25, 1923, in Lincoln Township, Labette County, to Foster Sare and Eva Lavon (Crosser) Willson. He grew up there and attended the former Oak Grove and Moriarty country schools. He graduated from St. Paul High School in 1941.
He enlisted the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in France and the Philippines during World War II. After his discharge in 1946, he returned to the area and later received his bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the Kansas State Teachers' College (now Pittsburg State University).
He taught at the Oklahoma Military Academy at Claremore before receiving his doctorate in botany at University of Oklahoma in Norman. He taught biology at Central Oklahoma University at Edmond and Central Washington University at Ellensburg, Wash. He also served as head of the biology department at Central Washington University. He retired in 1985 as dean emeritus (dean of sciences and mathematics and dean of graduate studies) and professor of biology from Winona State University of Minnesota.
He returned to St. Paul in 1987. He had been active in community affairs, serving on the boards of the Osage Mission-Neosho County Historical Society, the Prairie Mission Retirement Village, Mission Estates, St. Paul City Planning Commission, Sandpoint, St. Paul Saddle Club, the Graves Memorial Library and the St. Paul School Scholarship Committee. His life was dedicated to education and supporting people in their efforts to improve their lives and the lives of their fellow man.
Survivors include three nephews and seven nieces.
He was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Lloyd Willson, Joe Willson and Ray Willson; and a sister, Vada (Willson) Smith.
At his request, no funeral services will be scheduled. Burial will be in Hope Cemetery. Memorials are suggested to the St. Paul schools, for the St. Paul Public School District No. 14 Alumni Teacher Scholarship Fund or to the Prairie Mission Retirement Village Activity Fund. These may be mailed to Carson-Wall Funeral Home, 403 Main, St. Paul, 66771.