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URBANA — On Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, Willard J. Kirkpatrick, aged 84, passed away at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana.

Will considered himself a lucky man. He had a happy childhood, a loving marriage and a fulfilling work life.

Born on July 2, 1937, in Urbana’s Burnham City Hospital, Will graduated from Urbana High School in 1955.

Will worked for American Telephone and Telegraph for 31 years in four of its five principal divisions — Western Electric, Defense Contracts, Bell Labs and Southwestern Bell — installing and servicing equipment in central offices from Alaska to Florida, New York City to Honolulu, and once to two locations in Iceland. After traveling much of the United States and several locations overseas, Will was transferred to Houston with the Western Electric Company.

While working on his bass boat, Will met a lovely young lady, Vicki Wade. She had parked her 1968 Chevy Camaro in the adjoining stall. This led to a brief courtship and they were married on Aug. 28, 1975. This marriage led to adventures that lasted for 45 wonderful years that left Will with marvelous memories of their life together.

Fishing was an important part of Will’s life. In 1986, Will and Vicki retired and moved to the East Piney Woods on their 3 acres of waterfront on the shores of Sam Rayburn Reservoir in eastern Texas.

Will’s previous part-time professional fishing became his full-time endeavor. In addition to being a professional guide, he was also contacted by the Stephen F. Austin State University to develop and manage a youth fishing school program. This program was later tailored for large-mouth bass anglers. He was a member of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association and wrote a column on fishing for the Houston Chronicle.

Having grown up in Urbana, the children at Cunningham Children’s Home always held a special place in the Kirkpatricks' hearts. Fishing events for the youth at Cunningham Children’s Home, a tradition that Will started in 1971, continued through the years, including 2021. Each year, Will and Vicki took groups of children to Crystal Lake Park to learn how to cast, tie knots, bait hooks and handle fish. Upon his second retirement, Will moved back to Champaign-Urbana to be near his many relatives and friends.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at Renner-Wikoff Chapel, 1900 S. Philo Road, Urbana. Memorial contributions may be made in honor and memory of Will Kirkpatrick to Cunningham Children’s Home.

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