Diane Louise Wills, 87, tutor for the Cape Fear Literacy Council

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Diane Louise Wills
Diane Louise Wills

WILMINGTON — Diane Louise Wills, 87, died peacefully at Davis Health Care Center on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, after a courageous and lengthy battle with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.

She was born in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1929. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at UCLA, and later certification in public relations at California State University, Long Beach.

Her first marriage to the late Norman McLaren ended in divorce after 19 years, as did a brief second marriage to the late Del Smith.

Diane retired to Wilmington, N.C., from a career in display advertising, most recently from the Los Angeles Times, with her third husband (of almost 37 years) John Wills – a retired Los Angeles fire inspector. After moving from Long Beach, Calif., they resided in Wilmington over 20 years. Locally, Diane worked as a realtor for Adam & Hilliard Realty, and later Intracoastal Realty.

Mrs. Wills volunteered as a tutor for the Cape Fear Literacy Council and was active in her church, Holy Trinity Episcopal of Hampstead, serving on the vestry, as a member of Daughters of the King, and in various outreach committees. All who met Diane knew she was a lifelong and passionate lover of domestic animals, wildlife, marine mammals and birds.

Diane was preceded in death by her parents, James Donald Crawford and Dorothy Strohmeier Crawford Beck; stepson, John M. Wills; and three of her half-siblings.

She is survived by her husband, John K. Wills; children, Heather McLaren of Leland, N.C., and Holly Swyney (Pat) of Valencia, Calif.; stepsons, Mark Wills and Paul Wills (Denise Wills Sar); grandchildren, Margaret Ham (Daniel), Mairead Swyney, Sean Swyney, Katie and Ryan Wills; and great-grandson, Robert Ham. She is also survived by half-brothers Donald and John Crawford; nieces, Kathleen McLaren of Wilmington and Janet McLaren-Smith of Oakdale, Calif.; old LA Times friend, James Weinedel of Wilmington; and many other dear friends in California and North Carolina.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Hampstead with the Rev. Pamela Stringer officiating. The family will greet friends following the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Discretionary Fund, the Cape Fear Literacy Council, or any animal-welfare charity of the donor’s choice.

Diane’s family thanks the dedicated and caring workers at both Cornelia Nixon Davis Health Care Center and Lower Cape Fear Hospice.

Please share memories and condolences at www.wilmingtoncares.com.