Willis Iverson, Sr. departed this life on April 20, 2022 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas. He was born in Tarry, Arkansas on January 12, 1940 to the late Eunice Holloway and Manuel Iverson, Sr. He acknowledged an additional mother, Miley Shepard, who was instrumental in his upbringing.
Willis was previously married to Florine Floyd for thirty-three years. And that union, ten children were born. He later married Mary Gosey.
As a man of faith, with a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, Willis was a Deacon at Travelers Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Stuttgart, under the leadership of the late Reverend Hollingsworth and the late Reverend Bobby Brasfield. He then became a Deacon at Second Baptist Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, under the leadership of the late Reverend W. C. Tillman. Until his time of transition, Willis served faithfully as the head of the Deacon board, trustee, financial officer, along with many other roles and responsibilities, at First Missionary Baptist Church in Stuttgart, under the leadership of Dr. Cedric E. Hawkins, Sr.
Willis was employed for thirty years in the railroad industry at Cotton Belt and Union Pacific. With an 8th grade education from Lincoln County schools in Arkansas, he began his career as a laborer, then advanced to become the first black roadmaster and supervisor of his time. He served as a foreman, assistant roadmaster, and track supervisor, where he managed over 200 miles of tracks within Arkansas and Kansas with a crew of 30-50 men.
Willis was also proficient as a masonry, carpenter, gardener, and contractor. He was a member of the Masonic lodge and an active community leader. He was known for his world-famous barbecue and barbecue sauce. Additionally, Willis was a part of the Chit Chat Choo Gang, along with his best friend Paul Hill. He was a true ‘renaissance’ man.
Willis was preceded in death by his parents Eunice Holloway and Manuel Iverson Sr., brothers Manual Iverson, Alton Lee Grigsby, and Jessie Horton, Jr., sister Besse Magby, son-in-law Leandro Gonzalez, his first wife Florine Floyd Iverson, and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Willis is survived by his loving wife of twenty-six years Mary Iverson of Stuttgart, AR; eleven children Joyce Patrick of Chicago, IL, Debra Hill of Conway, AR, Brenda Iverson and Willis (Natasha) Iverson, both of Hutchinson, KS, Deana Iverson-Jeffrey of Atlanta, GA, Glenda (Walter) Simms of Lyons, KS, Trina (Gene) Jones and Timothy Iverson, both of Wichita, KS, Chywonna Gonzalez of Newton, KS, Tara Iverson of Emporia, KS, and a bonus son Billy George (Kisa) Ashley, Jr. of Adelanto, CA; thirty-two grandchildren; forty-three great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; one sister Ethel (Butch) Powell of Michigan; two brothers Kim Grigsby and Columbus Grigsby, both of Los Angeles, CA; special grandson Tito Floyd; special great-grandson Semaj Robinson; special brother-in-law Moses Magby; special sisters-in-law Esther Iverson and Ruth Horton; special nephew Earl Iverson; special cousins Mary Iverson and Lois Iverson; and a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins, and close friends.
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