Our Dad, Keith was formally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in July. Keith started his first round of chemotherapy at the June E Nylen Cancer Center in August and the goal is to complete four rounds and return to the Mayo Clinic to determine if the mass has shrunk enough to be able to undergo a surgery called the Whipple Plus. Our Dad's story really began over 70 years ago when he was born in Iowa to Dora and Hollis Wills. He is the fourth of five children and he loves his sisters and brother very much. We have heard stories since we were little kids about each of them and the wonderful traits that they have and their shenanigans as kids. Keith was raised on a farm in Seney, Iowa and left for the Navy after he graduated from high school in 1958. He is a very proud graduate of the Le Mars Community High School. The Navy took our Dad all over the world and he took great joy in sending his Mom a souvenir tea cup from the countries he visited. As you know, Keith is a proud Sailor and American. He instilled a great love, respect and honor for the United States of America in each of his four children. Every Thanksgiving, our Dad says the prayer before we eat at our family dinner and he always thanks the men and women serving our Country and his "eyes sweat" a little, as he likes to say, when he prays for those who protect our country. When Keith returned home after proudly serving as an engineman on Minesweepers in the Navy for four years, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska and worked several jobs at the same time as a mechanic. Keith has loved cars and figuring out how they work, since he was a young boy and man. He has told us how he learns by doing and he loved taking cars and motorcycles apart to see how each part worked and loved the challenge of putting them back together better than when he found them. Keith has never liked the cold and after laying in the Nebraska snow under cars at all hours of the day and night, he decided to accept a job in Arizona working at the Duvall Mine. Keith's first three children were born in Tucson, Arizona. He really wanted to enroll in night school to earn a college degree but being financially responsible for three kids under the age of four came first. After living in Sahuarita on the outskirts of Tucson for a few years, he took a huge risk and moved his family to Peru, South America. Keith worked for the Southern Peru Copper Corporation and learned how to speak Spanish during this time to be able to effectively communicate with his colleagues. His youngest daughter, Paige was born in Peru and he almost had to help deliver her as an earthquake occurred that night and the Peruvian hospital was short staffed. After living in Toquepala, Peru for four years, Keith moved his family back to Sahuarita, Arizona and Keith worked across the border at the Copper Mine in Nacozari de Garcia , Mexico. After one year, he and his family moved to Sheridan, Wyoming where he worked for Decker Coal in Decker, Montana. Still wanting to get back to warmer weather, his employment with Peter Kiewit and Sons took him to New Mexico and finally to his dream state of Arizona. Keith has lived in Glendale, Arizona for 35 years. Keith was a strong supporter of the ASU Sun Devils football team upon his arrival to Arizona and what a blast he had when he was able to attend the Rose Bowl in 1987 and root on the Sun Devils! His oldest son enrolled at the University of Arizona and became a Wildcat, so then Keith had to also root for the Cats. Keith told everyone that eventually Arizona would have a professional football team and he was right! The Phoenix Cardinals came to town in 1988 and played in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and later became the Arizona Cardinals in 1994 and moved the team to their own brand new University of Phoenix stadium located in Glendale. He has been an original ticket holder since 1988 and loves the Cardinals! You haven't lived until you've attended a game with him and heard him yell in his big, deep, booming voice "Defense." Keith retired from Peter Kiewit and Sons as a District Equipment Superintendent in the mid 90's and went into business with his youngest son restoring and painting cars. Our Dad, is a great story teller and has instilled within the four of us to work hard, give back, be honest with yourself, don't lie and has told us our entire lives, "Where there is a Wills, there is a Way." No excuses, just figure out a way to make your goals happen and don't blame other people for your mistakes. Keith loves connections with his family, friends, and community. Keith became a grandfather in 1994 when his first grandson, Josh was born. Tanner, Tucker, Brooke, Audrey, Hollis and Hayden followed after. Being a grandfather has given our Dad an opportunity to play jokes on them, tell them stories, and attend their numerous sporting and musical events. He loves his seven grandkids and probably most of you have seen a picture, or two, as he loves to show off how proud he is of all of them. Another of his greatest joys in life has been the time he has spent at family reunions spending time with his family and extended family telling stories and getting a kick out of his nieces, nephews, cousins, sisters, kids and grandkids. His story is part of ours and yours because of the impact he has had in our and your lives. We are in this battle with him and are praying, along with all of you, that he will be back at a Cardinals game soon, rooting on his favorite team.
Dad had an endoscopy today which went very well. This is the third one that he has had since July. The purpose of the procedure today was to place markers around the mass. These markers will help the radiation team target the area needing attention during radiation therapy. Unfortunately, you can’t eat for eight hours before an Endoscopy and afterwards you follow a clear liquid diet. Needless to say, Dad will be ready for a good breakfast in the morning. Tomorrow, Dad has a CT scan scheduled and then one more appointment in the afternoon. On Wednesday, he has five appointments at Mayo. He will have a break after that and Dad will be getting rested up for his grandson, Hayden’s 16th birthday party and the Super Bowl this weekend. Thank you for your prayers, calls and well wishes. They mean a lot! Please keep Dad in your thoughts this week as he moves through his appointments and procedures. ❤️🙏