Bertha Mae Willis October 12, 1922-July 4, 2021

Bertha was called to her “home far away” on July 4, 2021.  She began her journey peacefully at home in Bishop surrounded by her loving family.  She was born in Benton, CA on October 12, 1922, to the late Pete Watson and the late Teenie Lent. She had two sisters, Gladys Saulque Beauregard and Corrine Piper.

Bertha was sent from Benton to the Sherman Indian School in Riverside, CA.  After graduation, she returned to the Owens Valley and married Edward Willis.  Together, they raised 6 children.  She worked as a housekeeper and later for the Inter-Tribal Council of California.  She also worked for many years at the local J.C. Penney Store from which she retired.

She experienced so many changes during her 98 years in this world.  She recalled, as a child, fetching water on horseback.  During the early years of her marriage, she cooked on a wood stove for her family.  She saw this country put a man on the moon and was introduced to telephones, television, and computers in her lifetime.  Bertha loved music, singing, purple bottle hunting, and reading.  She also recognized the importance of voting and served on election boards throughout her life.

Bertha saw this country enter into numerous wars, including World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War and other military actions in the Middle East.  She lost her son, Harold Willis, during the Viet Nam War and became a Gold Star Mother.  She was the last Gold Star Mother from the Viet Nam era in Inyo County, a distinction that she and her family hopes no other parent will ever have to endure.

She was an early member of the Valley Presbyterian Church and later enjoyed services at the Foursquare Indian Mission on the Bishop Paiute Reservation.  Her favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, brought her peace and comfort during her last days.  She knew the Lord and this brings the family comfort in her passing.

Bertha was preceded in death by her parents, sisters and her husband, Edward Willis; sons, Richard Edward Willis and Harold Willis; granddaughters, Fawn Piatt and Tonia Cozad; and grandson, Richard Willis.  Those left to cherish her memory include her daughters, LaVerne DeMarrias of Bishop, CA and her companion, Charles Cozad of Anadarko, OK; Bonnie Segundo Diaz of Pala, CA, Joyce White of Bishop, CA, and Tina Willis and her companion, Steve Bohay, of Long Beach, CA.  Grandchildren include Michelle Cozad, Crystal Cozad, Brian Willis, Lynette Willis, Doreen White Twin, Howard Diaz, Harold Diaz, Edward Diaz, Eric Bohay, Larissa Bohay, and numerous great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

A viewing will be held at Brune Mortuary, 325 West Elm Street, Bishop, on Thursday, July 15, 2021, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm.  Graveside services will be held on Friday, July 16, 2021, at 11:00am at the West Line Street Cemetery, 160 Pioneer Lane, Bishop.

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