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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No. 106 Harkers Island "Professionals" Part 2 "Maxwell Willis"

A man of many talents was Maxwell Willis, (b. 1912) He had the mind of an accountant, the skills of an electrician, the mathematics of a technician, and the vision of a civil engineer. With little formal education, but a lifetime of knowledge taken from hundreds of books that he read and studied, he played a central part in many of the changes that allowed the Island to emerge from traditional ways as it adopted the advances of the twentieth century.

Maxwell Willis, Harkers Island's Rennaissance Man"
He started out as a clerk with a local cooperative, the Harkers Island EMC, when it brought electricity to the Island in 1939. But he quickly advanced to the rank of director. He handled finances, including funding from several government sources, billing, payroll, and facility maintenance costs. But more importantly, he oversaw construction, repairs and planning for an enterprise that eventually was valued well in excess of a million dollars.

Long before the age of electronic “gadgets,” Maxwell was the ultimate gadgeteer. He was the first on the Island to have the latest phonograph, radio, and television equipment. His large library of books and manuals influenced not just what he knew, but how he wrote and communicated that knowledge to others. He was equally adept and comfortable when discussing electrical engineering with government scientists as when explaining construction basics to a newly hired lineman.

Like other “Renaissance Men” he was eclectic in his interests. He was a lover of art,  music and movies. His affection for animals and birds all but defined him to his closest friends. His place atop Red Hill was something of a menagerie that included even a monkey that delighted and fascinated Island children as it swung from the vines and limbs of the oak trees.

Beyond his professional responsibilities, because of his engineering and architectural skills he was a resource for anyone who needed to know how to make or fix something. Part architect, part electrician, and several more parts engineer, Maxwell could make plans and then see them become a reality. Carpenters, plumbers and masons all sought him out when tackling a new or difficult project and his approval was a sure sign that a plan was ready to be implemented.

Next: Part 3: "Raymond Guthrie"

1 comment:

  1. My Uncle Mac ... Thank you Joel for remembering not only who he was but what he was made of ... I like to think Casey is part of what Uncle Mac could have been.