Jim always called himself one of the “Biltmore Boys” and was a lifelong Asheville native. He distinguished himself as a member of the first graduating class of T.C. Roberson High School in 1963. A UNCA graduate and proud member of the Huns, he retired from the Asheville Fire Department in 2000 with over 28 years of service. You could often find Jim involved coaching youth sports, golfing, or attending community events.
As an only child, Jim was known for his outgoing personality and cherished many lifelong friendships. He would strike up a conversation with anyone who would listen and made friends everywhere he went. More often than not, you could find Jim attending a parade downtown, where he’d be sure to scout out the best spot and arrive at least an hour in advance so he could people watch. Live music and local car shows were another big draw for Jim; he loved music and dancing. Oftentimes, Mom and Jim were the first on the dance floor or out in the crowd.
His love for travel was never more present than on our annual trips to Destin, Florida, which is where we will remember him most. Coffee on the balcony, overlooking emerald green waters, a set of binoculars never far from reach. He’d always look off at the skyline and say, “This is what makes it all worth it right here.”
Jim’s gentle, yet stern nature made him an exceptional father. He enjoyed imparting life lessons on his children and grandchildren. He was always a penny pincher and tried to impart on us the importance of doing your “have-to’s” before your “want-to’s.”
Jim was an extremely detail-oriented man in both his personal and professional life. As an engineer, he took his role very seriously and made personal pocket-sized map and direction books for each station he worked at. In a time before Google and navigation systems, putting in the effort and taking the time to better understand his surroundings enabled him to save lives. In his personal life he used the same dedication and attention to detail when documenting everything from home repairs and bills to Talladega pole winners and NASCAR placement winners.
He loved life and lived it HIS way on HIS own terms. Jim’s gruff exterior didn’t fool those who knew him well. He was a very kindhearted man who cared deeply about others’ problems. He adored his wife, loved his kids, and cherished his cats. He chose to see the world through rose colored glasses and enjoyed sharing that view with those lucky enough to have known him.
Karen was born in Bronx, New York, on February 16, 1960. She spent several years in Adelphi, Maryland, before moving to the mountains of North Carolina in the ’80s, where she found home. She attended Warren Wilson College and earned a Bachelor of Science degree.
She began her career with the Asheville Fire Department in 1994 and served her community for 25 years. As a dedicated member, Karen moved through the ranks from firefighter to engineer to assistant fire marshal. She devoted her life to service and volunteered for many organizations, including Animal Compassion Network and Habitat for Humanity.
Karen’s energy and passion for life were felt by all who knew her and those who crossed her path.
Karen lived her life to the fullest through her athletic and outdoorsy adventures, including biking, hiking, rafting, obstacle course races, and firefighter competitions. Her competitive drive and love for nature and the outdoors were paramount to her life.
Karen is survived by her mother, Adele Shuart; brother, Mark Shuart; and her fur babies, Nikko, Tink, Harley, and Izzy, all of Asheville, North Carolina.
Engineer William Perry Willis, age 34, of the Asheville Fire Department, died on February 27, 2018, from complications of kidney cancer. His death was ruled a line-of-duty death by the North Carolina Insurance Commission.
Our world was blessed on August 11‚ 1973‚ when Jeff was born in San Bernardino County‚ California. Jeff’s interest in serving others began early in his life‚ and he entered the fire service at the age of 16. He began his career with the U.S. Department of Forestry and then came to the Asheville Fire Department in 1998. Jeff brought his mother‚ Laurel‚ to Asheville‚ and it was also here that he met and married his wife‚ Stacy.
Jeff was a superstar in the Asheville Fire Department. He was instrumental in many department initiatives including company officer development‚ promotional process improvement‚ and youth development programs. Jeff completed his bachelor’s degree in fire safety and management from Fayetteville State University and had enrolled in the first offering of the Asheville Fire Department’s Chief Officer Development Program. Jeff’s contributions to the fire service were many‚ and they continue to be blessings today.
Jeff loved the outdoors. He was an avid hunter and loved anything related to the water. Jeff spent much of his free time with his family in water recreational activities‚ and this carried over to his passion for water rescue in the fire service. Jeff and his closest friends in the fire service spent many days in the woods on numerous hunting trips‚ a bond that showed daily on the job.
Jeff had a smile and an attitude that made everyone around him feel positive about everything. He was a can do fire officer that everyone wanted to work with.
Jeff is survived by his mother‚ Laurel; his wife‚ Stacy; and their children‚ Robin‚ Sarah‚ and CJ.
He is sincerely missed by all whose lives he touched. We are so blessed to receive the many gifts he gave us.
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