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Obituary: Robert E. Willett Sr., 94, Bardstown

ROBERT E. WILLETT SR.

Robert E. Willett, Sr., 94, of Bardstown, died April 4, 2017, at Windsor Gardens nine days after his wife of 70 years passed away. He was born May 9, 1922, in Bardstown. In 1940 he graduated class valedictorian from St. Joseph Preparatory School, where he was a star basketball player on a team that made it to the Kentucky High School Sweet 16. He attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. on a basketball scholarship, but his studies were interrupted by World War II.

He signed up with the Army Air Corps Reserve in 1942 and was called to active duty in June 1943. He received his wings in August 1944. He was given the perilous duty of flight instructor before being trained as a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, but the war ended before he could be deployed. And thus began a lifelong fascination with design innovations in planes, cars and homes.

He returned to Bardstown to marry Anne Talbott at St. Joseph Cathedral on May 12, 1946. The couple moved back to Spring Hill College, where they were often seen on campus riding their bicycle-built-for-two.

After he earned a degree in philosophy from Spring Hill College, he and Anne moved to the Washington D.C. area, where he graduated from Georgetown University School of Law in 1950. He became a member of the Virginia Bar Association and practiced law and developed real estate in northern Virginia as their family grew to include four children. In 1963, the Willett family moved home to Bardstown, where “Bobby” went to work with his brothers as vice-president and later president of the Willett Distilling Company.

He was known to be patient, persistent, and principled. He was an active member of St. Michael in Annandale, Va., and St. Joseph Parish. He served as an In Tribute Chairman for the Children’s Hospital Foundation. He was a member of the BCBS of Ky. Consumer Advisory Committee. He served as president of the St. Joe Prep Alumni Association. In 2012 he was inducted into the St. Joe Prep Hall of Fame.

During their long retirement, the Willetts loved returning to Mobile and visiting Nashville to spend time with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Anne Talbott Willett; one daughter, Rebecca Willett Bloch; his parents, A. Lambert and Mary Thompson Willett; one sister, Mary Catherine Willett; and six brothers, Thompson Willett, John Willett, Norman Willett, J. William Willett, Paul A. Willett and Charles D. Willett.

Survivors include one daughter, Anne Willett (Michael) Marshall of Mobile, Ala.; two sons, Dr. Robert E. (Kim) Willett Jr. of Mobile, Ala., and A. Lambert Willett II of Louisville; one sister, Patricia Willett Jemley; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may go to St. Joseph Parish, Bethlehem High School or the St. Joseph Bereavement Committee.

The Funeral Mass is 11 a.m. Friday, April 28, 2017, at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral with burial in the church cemetery.

Visitation is 5-8 p.m. Thursday, April 27, 2017, at Barlow Funeral Home.

Barlow Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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