Retired banker, active in community
Willis Irl Else died Sept. 21,2013, after a brief illness.
He was born in Fairbury, Neb., on Dec. 24, 1931, and earned a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1953. He also earned a master's degree in 1958 from the University of Illinois after serving in the U.S. Army from 1953-56 as an instructor in its Nike Anti-Aircraft School, Fort Bliss, Texas. He also attended the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago.
In 1958 he joined the management training program at The First National Bank of Chicago which began his lifelong career in banking with several organizations in Chicago, New York, Akron and Cleveland, retiring in 1993 from National City, after moving to Hudson in 1987.
Mr. Else was active in numerous organizations including the Bank Marketing Association where he graduated from its School of Financial Public Relations in 1962 and later served as chairman of that school now known the School of Bank Marketing in 1971-72. He was a former member of the Board of Trustees of Western Reserve Academy, Treasurer of the Ohio Synod of the Lutheran Church in America, chairman of the Franklin County Chapter of the American Cancer Society, member of the American Bankers Association, member of the Board of Trustees of Capital University and served on the board of the Hudson Summit Players, now Actors' Summit, since 2009.
Mr. Else's principal hobby was genealogy which led to teaching and leadership in several societies, including the Hudson Genealogical Study Group chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society for which he served as president in 1992-93 and the Western Reserve Historical Society Genealogical Committee from 1987, serving as it president until his demise. He also lectured frequently on genealogical topics and was the author of numerous journal articles as well as The Complete Soundex Guide. This book revealed for the first time the fact that the National Archives (NARA) had been publishing, for at least 40 years, an incomplete set of Soundex rules-rules frequently used by genealogists to find ancestors in the U.S. Census and Immigration and Naturalization Service records which, in turn, explained why some genealogists could not find their ancestors in these records. Indeed, this revelation and another which he
elected not to disclose until now were probably Mr. Else's most significant lifetime contributions.
This second revelation involves his discovery in 1955 that the U.S. Army's celebrated Nike I anti-aircraft system used to defend U.S. cities from air attack generally prevented a second missile from being fired at enemy aircraft in case the first missile missed its target. This was contrary to the government's original specifications which called for the missile system to offer at least two opportunities to knock down incoming enemy aircraft. As a result of his findings, which were quickly classified top secret, the Nike I anti-aircraft system was soon replaced by the Nike Hercules anti-aircraft system which did not have the one-missile limitation.
Mr. Else is survived by his wife, Marion; daughter, Sharon, widow of William Lee Ware, and their children, Cole William and Elizabeth Else Ware of Stow; son, John and his wife, Dana Gamer Else, and their daughter, Hailey Nicole Else of Chesapeake, Va.; and son, Robert of Chicago. He is also survived by brother, Wilbert Harold Else of Georgetown, Texas; and many nieces and nephews.
A service of remembrance will be Sept. 26 at 11 a.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 50 N. Prospect St., Akron, with the Rev. David Nevergall officiating. Friends may call one hour prior to the services. Burial was in Markillie Cemetery, as previously requested by the decedent.
Memorials may be sent to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church or to the Else Family Fund of the Akron Community Foundation. To share a Memory, Send a Condolence, or Light a Candle, visit the Tribute Wall at www.billowfuneralhomes.com. Arrangements by Billow Fairlawn Chapel, 330-867-4141.