It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Willis Horst, a man of extraordinary strength, talent, beauty, and charm. Born at home on February 28th, 1949, to Rebecca and David Horst, Willis spent most of his childhood in the tiny Mennonite town of Hawkesville, Ontario, where he spent his free time swimming and camping down by a nearby dam on the Conestogo River and bicycling around, often with his baby brother Willard in the carrier basket, and spending time with the friends he would stay close with his entire life. The community and the Mennonite values he grew up with were foundational for Willis, who was known as ‘Winky,’ for his squinty and smiling eyes.
As a young man Willis picked up and excelled at the framing trade and also tried his hand at a calf-cow operation for a few years. His passions were, according to Lee Brubaker, a lifelong friend, “Framing, farming, flying, and wrestling.” He started a family with his first wife, Resa Shore, in Hamilton, Ontario, and fathered three beautiful children there: Rachel, Joanna, and Jared Horst. Joanna lived for only a few hours and her death brought Willis a sorrow he carried with him.
When Willis travelled out west for a temporary framing job, he fell in love with the rugged mountains and ocean and decided to move his family to Vancouver, BC, where after twelve years his marriage ended in divorce.
Willis had a passion for film and television and with his smiling eyes and good looks, it is no surprise that he became an actor playing parts in popular shows like MacGyver and the Sunshine Coast’s very own Beachcombers! When Willis found a parcel of undeveloped land here, he moved to Secret Cove and never looked back. Shortly after he met and fell in love with Adele Anderson and soon enticed her to move to the coast and make a life with him.
Willis is perhaps most famous on the Coast for digging the lake that now sweetens the view for passersby as they drive up or down the highway. For many years, people wondered what he was doing out there with his machinery, digging away tirelessly. But Willis had a vision; he always said working the land and designing and building his own home was like watching a polaroid picture slowly developing. Willis had two grandchildren he adored: Rainey and Jude Triance. It was his great joy to watch them diving and swimming in the lake, parts of which he named after them.
After a battle with pancreatic cancer, Willis died peacefully at home on June 5th, 2021, surrounded by his family and close friends, Dal and Denise Brynelsen. Willis will be remembered and missed greatly by all who knew him, but especially his wife and life partner, Adele, his daughter Rachel (and Tavis Triance) and is grandchildren Rainey and Jude, his son, Jared Horst, his brother Willard (and Annette) Horst, his in-laws Dave and Loretta Anderson, his sister-in-law Debbie (and Doug) Willis, his aunts, uncles, nieces, and cousins, as well as all the amazing friends whom he cherished and who brought him comfort to the very end. We will be celebrating Willis’s life on Saturday, September 4, 2021 at Willis and Adele's home.