Willis Dean Wilcox, 67, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at his home. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Father Frank Chacon on May 14 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Winslow. Interment followed at Desert View Cemetery in Winslow.
Dean was born April 21, 1945, in Winslow. He and his twin brother, William George, were the fourth and fifth children of Joseph and Dorothy Wilcox. He was Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo born for Tabaahi (Edgewater Clan).
Dean attended schools in Winslow and graduated from Winslow High School in 1964. He loved playing sports, and was active on the high school football and baseball teams all four years of high school. His love for sports carried on through his children, especially his four daughters, who were athletes.
In 1967, Dean participated in the BIA Indian Relocation Program. He was sent to Los Angeles and attended Long Beach City College. He became a certified machinist and worked in the LA area for a short time. While there he met his first wife, Ruthie Simms. They married and moved back home to Winslow, where his first daughter, Deanna, was born in 1972.
Dean began working for El Paso Natural Gas Company in 1973. He was assigned to Navajo Station near Ganado. Unexpectedly, his wife passed away and he was left with an infant daughter.
Fate was in his corner, though, and the stars aligned one magical evening as his twin brother introduced him to a mutual friend, and later the love of his life, Amelia Curley. His heart was stolen their first date, when she cooked him a tasty dinner of mutton stew and fry bread. He was hooked! The lovebirds were married on June 23, 1976, in Winslow. The young family consisting of Dean, Millie, daughter Deanna and son Dion began their life together when his company transferred him to Leupp Station. Here they added four more to the crew, Dana, Donna, Todd and Tara.
During his time in Leupp, Dean introduced the sport of baseball to many young boys and girls in the area. He coached the Leupp Redskins, which became the Cleveland “Leupp” Indians Little League baseball team, for over 20 years. Every spring he recruited any and all interested kids to participate on his baseball team. Daily practice sessions at the Leupp Station or Winslow backstop fields, and two to three games a week in Winslow, kept him and his teams busy. He would haul his entire team in the back of his White Dodge pickup to their games and practices. He always rewarded their efforts with a trip to Burger King after every game and practice. For many of those years his brother-in-law, Todd Curley, was the Indians’ assistant coach. They were two of the best coaches, developing their players’ fundamental baseball skills and teaching lifelong lessons of caring, dedication and teamwork.
Dean’s family was always along for the ride, supporting his teams year after year. They share so many fun memories of those days and are so appreciative of all his former players who have expressed their gratitude for what Dean and Indians baseball provided for them. Dean often talked about so many of the baseball players he coached and his favorite memories. His face always lit up when he recalled his coaching memories. He loved the opportunity to coach so many great kids and share his passion for baseball with them. The Indians are his legacy!
Dean had a great appreciation for the outdoors. He and his family enjoyed weekend camping and fishing trips. They especially enjoyed the infamous California and Las Vegas spring break vacations with all the windows down and no air conditioning because, as he would say, “It’s not that hot, quit crying.” He always looked forward to October’s hunting season. These were good times spent with his brothers, nephews and son, Dion.
After retiring from El Paso Natural Gas Company in 1996, Dean began work with Alex’s Transportation for several years. He enjoyed driving long distances and meeting people while on the road. He was always up to tell a story and share some laughs. He worked here until health issues forced him to retire.
It was then that he devoted his life fully to his family and his grandchildren. He loved his family dearly, and it was because of them that Dean considered himself a very wealthy man. He also used this time to strengthen his mental and spiritual well being.
In September 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer. Dean was always a fighter and was determined to beat the odds. Familial care and support, along with the love of his wife, children and grandchildren, kept him energized and in good spirits.
Willis Dean Wilcox was a father, a husband, a mentor, a protector, a hunter, a coach and a hero. His spirit will live on in his children and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed.
Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Amelia; his sons, Dion Curley and Todd Wilcox; his daughters, Deanna, Dana, Donna and Tara Wilcox; his brother, Joe Wilcox (Elvira); his sisters-in-law, Lucille, Doris and Margaret Wilcox; his grandson, Darius Franklin; his granddaughters, Adriane Nunez, Aimee and Ava Wilcox, and Teya and Rhiannon Franklin; his brothers-in-law, Stanley Curley Jr., Todd (Paula) Curley and Terrance Curley; and his sisters-in-law, Dolly (Tony) Gonzales, Sandra (Merrill) Hoyengowa and Starlene (Paul) Buonviri; and numerous relatives.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Dorothy Wilcox; his loving mother-in-law, Polly Curley; three brothers, Norman, Ted and George Wilcox; two sisters, Eleanor Reyes and Verna Jean Wilcox; two nephews, Joe and Mike Wilcox; a niece Tamara Wilcox; and a granddaughter, Amanda Wilcox.
Greer’s Mortuary of Winslow was in charge of the arrangements.