John Francis Willingham, 76, passed away Friday, March 5, 2021. The son of the late Josephine and Spain Willingham, he was born April 10, 1944 in Macon. John attended Miss Duffy’s Kindergarten, Alexander III Grammar School, and Lanier Jr. High School. He graduated in 1962 from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA and in 1966 he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. After college he graduated from the U.S. Army Signal Corps O.C.S. and afterwards was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He served a year in Stuttgart, Germany as commanding officer of the 179th Signal Detachment and received a Certificate of Achievement from the Seventh Army Support Command. As a 1st Lieutenant, he served a year in DaNang, Vietnam in the Headquarter 137th Signal Battalion. He received the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement. After leaving the military in 1969, he attended Georgia State University and earned a Masters of Business Administration degree.
He returned to his hometown of Macon in 1972 and became president of Willingham Sash and Door Company, a manufacturer of architectural woodwork. The firm, founded in 1882 by his great grandfather, is well known for outstanding millwork produced for historic courthouses, churches, and residences. While in business, he was on the board and served as president of the Southeastern Chapter Architectural Woodwork Institute and the Southern Woodwork Association. John was also very involved in community service and served on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club, the Booker T. Washington Center, the Friends of the Cannonball House, and Macon Little Theatre. He performed two one-man comedy shows, called “Funny Raisers,” benefiting Macon Little Theatre. He was also a member of the Palaver Club, the Hay House, Historic Macon, the Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Shield Club, and Idle Hour Country Club. John was a lifelong member of Christ Episcopal Church where he served on the Vestry, chaired the Building Committee, and was an usher.
John had a wide range of interests. He traveled to most of the countries in Western Europe, went on camping trips to Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, and Nepal in Asia. He enjoyed visiting museums wherever he went and given and always enjoyed many types of music from opera to rock ‘n roll. Attending performances at local theaters and traveling to New York to attend Broadway shows were always his favorite types of entertainment. As an avid golfer his goal was to shoot his age but he was concerned that he wouldn’t live long enough to achieve that goal!
John is survived by family members who loved him dearly: his wife, Jane, who was devoted to him throughout 33 years of marriage; son, Spain Willingham of Atlanta; step-children, Catherine Douglas (Brian) of Augusta and Brian Currie of Atlanta; sister, Helen Meadors (Craig Burkhalter) of Rabun Gap, GA; brother, Joe Willingham (Doris) of Berkeley, CA; nephew Frank Meadors (Kristen) of Rabun Gap, GA and great nephew Thomas Meadors of Rabun Gap, GA. He was fondly called Grandpa Bubba by his grandchildren Erin Safford (Justin) and Palmer Douglas (Molly) of Augusta, Jane Douglas of Washington D.C.; and his great grandchildren Henry and Landry Safford and Bea, Sally, and Cal Douglas of Augusta.
A private, graveside service for the family will be held with the Reverend Cynthia Knapp officiating. Upon the easing of Covid restrictions, the family will hold a memorial service at Christ Episcopal Church and greet friends in the Great Hall after the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Christ Episcopal Church, 582 Walnut St. Macon, GA 31201, or to a charity of your choice.
It was John's wish to have the chimes in the bell tower at Christ Church restored with added features to have them play more regularly. This project is going to take place in his memory. To contribute please send a gift to Christ Church in his name.
A special thank you to John’s devoted caregivers from Home Instead and Homestead Hospice.
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