Gregory Paul Willis passed away at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica on Sept. 3 after a brief, one-sided battle with cancer.
Gregg was born in Detroit, Michigan, on Dec. 19, 1953, and grew up in nearby Royal Oak, Michigan. He was elected senior class president at Clarence M. Kimball High School in Royal Oak.
After high school, Gregg served in the United States Air Force for over two years as the Vietnam War was winding down.
Gregg was an avid sports fan and supported his hometown Tigers baseball team, Pistons basketball team and especially the Red Wings hockey team. He was ecstatic when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997 for the first time since 1955.
Gregg was a passionate music fan, especially of the blues. Upon hearing his first Allman Brothers Band record, he added the third G to his name.
Among the Detroit acts Gregg followed from his teen years to the present were Dick Wagner and the Frost, Bob Seger and Iggy Pop. Gregg’s favored blues guitarists besides Duane Allman included B.B. King, Lonnie Mack, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rory Gallagher and Paul Warren.
Gregg was a truck driver and had recently received his 20-year pin from the Teamsters Local 339 in North Hollywood. Over the years he operated car carriers, concert equipment trucks and film industry honey wagons. He was proud to have worked on tour with Jack Bruce of Cream, David Bowie, George Benson, REO Speedwagon, The Who, Van Halen, Elvis Costello and Prince’s Purple Rain tour.
Among the many films he worked on he was proudest of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” and “The Player.”
Gregg lived for over 30 years in Santa Monica Canyon and Pacific Palisades. He was well known for his efforts to keep the storm drain clean at Will Rogers State Beach and to tend to the ducks who lived in the runoff.
Gregg was a self-taught pavement mason and installed antique brick walkways, many of which may be seen in the Palisades Village business district. Gregg was also a tree planting advocate. Gregg’s friend Arnie Wishnick, president of the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce, has kindly indicated that a tree recently planted by Gregg at 15200 Sunset Blvd. in the Palisades Village will be dedicated with a plaque in his memory.
Gregg is survived by his daughter Monica Willis of Ventura, California; mother Elizabeth Vostinar of Ferndale, Michigan; brother John Willis of North Falmouth, Massachusetts; sister Myra Willis of Kalamazoo, Michigan; brother Mark Willis of San Pedro, California; brother Paul Willis of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; brother Raymond Willis of Ferndale, Michigan; and many nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to kindly thank Cevin Clark, Mike Sage and especially Mary Diamond for their invaluable support.
Cremation was by the Neptune Society. The family suggests memorial donations to the Salvation Army, or just to plant a tree in Gregg’s memory and think of him as it grows.
A memorial service will be held on Sept. 30 from 5-7 p.m. at Harvelle’s, located at 1432 Fourth Street in Santa Monica.
“Born on the wrong side of time, Pretend to yourself, That some day you’ll do just fine.”