MALTA — Willis M. McKeon, 92, a WWII U.S. Army veteran and retired attorney, passed away with his family at his side on Monday, March 10, 2014, at the Phillips County Hospital.
Vigil service will be at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, followed by sharing of memories at the Kirkwood Memorial Chapel. The funeral Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated 10 a.m., Monday, March 17, at St. Mary’s Catholic Community. Interment with military honors will be in the Malta Cemetery. Memorials are suggested to Hi-Line Retirement Center and Phillips County Hospital in Malta. Condolences for the family may be left at www.kirkwood
Willis was born in Anaconda on Aug. 23, 1921, the son of Michael and Mary Eleanor “Tootie” (McMahon) McKeon. After graduating in 1939 from St. Peter’s High School, he attended Gonzaga University, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Prior to graduating, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving in World War II with the European theater of operations assigned to Headquarters Company 308th Engineer Battalion 83rd Infantry Division. He received the Europe Theater of Operations Ribbon with five battle stars from the battles of Normandy, Brittany, Central Europe, Ardennes and Rhineland and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant Dec. 4, 1945.
Willis married Laura Svendson of Miles City at the Cathedral of St. Helena rectory on Nov. 27, 1946. He obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Montana School of Law in 1948. He was a member of the State Bar of Montana and the 17th Judicial District Bar Association, receiving his 50-year pin in 1998. He began his career as an assistant law clerk with the Montana House of Representatives in 1949 and moved to Malta in April 1949 to open a private law practice. In addition to prosecuting and his private law practice, Willis served on the State Board of Institutions, State-County Compensation Board, State Banking Board and Montana Board of Personnel Appeals.
Willis was the first president of St. Mary’s Home and School Association; member of the Malta Volunteer Fire Department; director of Phillips County Hospital Association; chairman of Phillips County March of Dimes in the 1950s; charter member of Malta Athletic Club; member of Phillips County Fair Board; and an original organizer and member of the board of directors of the First Security Bank of Malta, serving as its first president; member of Malta Knights of Columbus; fourth degree member of Fr. DeSmet Assembly and Past State Advocate. He also served as the state department commander of the VFW, served on the Community Service and Legislative National Committees and was an active member of Malta Post 4067.
Willis was a devoted family man who placed his Roman Catholic faith and his family first. He and Laura have six children, 16 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. They include Patricia (John) Stene of Polson; John C. (Terry) McKeon of Malta; Barbara (John) Sunford of Saco; James M. (Sandy) McKeon of Helena; Maureen (Kent) Wasson of Whitewater; and Joanne (Tom) Lindon of Missoula. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren are Karri, Chris, Kayla and Courtney Hallock; Willie, Raina, Dothan, Isaac and Amelia Stene; Julie, Willy, and Rylee Johnson; Erica,Todd, Sylvie, Finley, Emme, Avery, Meredith, and Madie Hanson; Katie McKeon; Tom Sunford; Jim, Mandy, Tyler and Kacey Sundford; Ann Sunford; Erin and Andrew Barton; Mary and Devin Strong; Joey McKeon; Kyle, Kellie, Payton, Barrett and Avery Wasson; Nichole, Kent and Miles Wood; Mike, Jennifer, Nick and Ryan McCollom; Jamie, Tyler, Grayson and Harper Muzzana; Robert McCollom and Kenny Lindon. In addition to his family, Willis is survived by his grade school and longtime friend Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Helena.
Willis was preceded in death by his parents; brother, John Luke
McKeon; his grandson, Joseph Michael McKeon; and dear family friends, Dr. Daniel T. and Mary Rita Molloy and Kenny and Aggie Murray.