Family History

Beverly Willis was born in 1928.

Her parents met in Los Angeles, California, while Beverly’s mother, Margaret Elizabeth Porter, was in nursing school. Margaret had graduated from Lebanon High, Lebanon, Oregon. After graduation from high school Margaret entered the Los Angeles County General Hospital Nursing School and graduated in 1923. (She had wanted to be an accountant, but her father said no). There Beverly’s mother, met Ralph William Willis. They were married on June 4, 1923, in Los Angeles, California. Five years later, they decided to go to Oklahoma City, the center of the great Oklahoma oil boom. On their way to Oklahoma City, they stopped for six weeks in Tulsa, Oklahoma for Beverly’s birth. She was born in Tulsa on February 17, 1928 during the great depression.

Six years later, on December 26, 1934, Margaret and Ralph were divorced. Margaret stayed on in Oklahoma City, working in varying nursing jobs – the depression was a very financially difficult time. As a result, immediately after the divorce, Beverly and her brother Ralph Gerald “Budd” Willis were placed in an orphanage. This was not unusual during the depression, as money for food was scarce. Six years later, Beverly and her brother went to live with their mother in Oklahoma City. WW2 had begun and Margaret, her mother, took a job in Portland Oregon working in a Liberty ship shipyard. Beverly graduated from Franklin High School in Portland and attended Oregon State University for two years majoring in Aeronautical Engineering. She chose this specialty, as she had learned to fly a plane at 15, earning money for flight lessons welding oil “drilling bits” for her father’s Willis Tool Company. She dropped out after her sophomore year, but eventually graduated from the University of Hawaii with a BA Art in 1954.

While both the Willis and the Cornett (also spelled Canute)-Porter families sailed from England to St. James Colony in Virginia some 300 years ago, the Cornetts-Porters and the Willis families made different decisions as to where to settle in the new land. The Francis Cornett, Esq. and his descendants settled around Elk Creek, Grayson County, and Independence, Virginia, where many of their descendants still live. The Porter side of the Cornett family left Elk Creek-Grayson County and settled in and around Ozark, and Springfield, Missouri, where many of their descendants still live.

Margaret Elizabeth Porter (mother of Beverly Willis) was born December 1, 1901 in Ozarks, Missouri. Beverly’s grandparents were Abram Legran and Miranda Comstock Porter. Beverly’s mother was named after her great grandmother, Margaret Elliott Cornett of Grayson County, Virginia. After Margaret’s mother died when she was 11 years old, she left Ozark, Missouri, to be with her father. Her father had moved to Lebanon, Oregon after death of his wife Miranda, Beverly’s grandmother. Margaret graduated from Lebanon High School and continued her schooling in Los Angeles.

After WW2, Margaret left Portland, Oregon to work in San Francisco, while Beverly was working in Hawaii. When Beverly arrived in San Francisco from Honolulu in 1958 to establish her office in San Francisco, Margaret joined her office as a bookkeeper, to help her daughter. In 1964, she retired and moved to a senior housing apartment in Anacortes, Skagit County, Washington, close to Beverly’s brother, Gerald “Budd” Willis. Budd, who at that time, lived on Center Island located nearby. She died on November 1, 1982.

On the Willis side of Beverly’s family, around the early 18th century, the Willis’s first settled in Virginia. Each succeeding generation pioneered into new territories, first in North Carolina, then Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Her great grandfather, finally settled in Broken Bow, Nebraska, joined by her grandfather and great, great, grandfather. There her father was born. Her grandfather, (her father’s father) Charles William Willis, left Nebraska, selling his 1000-acre farm and the Queen Anne style house he had purchased at the 1905 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, to accompany his son to Los Angeles, California. Struck by a streetcar, he died in 1927. Beverly’s father eventually returned to Broken Bow, Nebraska, after business ventures in Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois, and repurchased his father’s farm. He died in 1984.