Mark Willcox Jr., 99, lawyer, township leader

Posted: March 04, 2013

Mark Willcox Jr., 99, of Glen Mills, a lawyer whose ancestors made currency for the Second Continental Congress at the family's Ivy Mills in Delaware County, died Monday, Feb. 18, of a heart attack in the Neighborhood Hospice in West Chester.

Born in Wawa, Delaware County, to Margaret Keating and Mark Willcox Sr., Mr. Willcox was a seventh-generation descendant of Thomas Willcox, owner of one of the oldest paper mills in the United States.

In 1775, as the congress prepared for the war against Britain, Benjamin Franklin was asked to provide financing, so he called on his friend Willcox.

Because paper was scarce, Thomas Willcox learned to convert linen rags into currency and later manufactured much of the paper currency for the fledgling colonies at Ivy Mills, according to an online history.

When Ivy Mills fell on hard times in the 1950s, and the clerk's house on the property was in danger of collapsing, Mark Willcox Jr. reached into his own pocket to help.

"It was a complete shambles, and he totally restored it," said his son, Mark Willcox 3d.

A student at Swarthmore College and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Willcox earned his law degree from the university's School of Law, finishing at the top of his class.

While an undergraduate, he made friends with the painter Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth painted his portrait, which is in a private collection.

During World War II, Mr. Willcox was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, serving in South Africa as an intelligence liaison officer.

After the war, he joined the Center City law firm of McCoy, Evans & Lewis. He worked there until it closed in the 1970s, his son said.

He then helped found the Center City law firm Hepburn, Willcox, Hamilton & Putnam. He retired in the 1980s after a career spent doing trust and estate work.

He was a member of the Philadelphia Club and served on the board of directors of International House Philadelphia, the Sleighton Farm School for Girls in Delaware County, and the Nicholas Newlin Foundation. He also was a past president of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

He served as a Concord Township supervisor from January 1980 to December 1986, and on the Zoning Hearing Board from February 1970 to May 1976. He was named person of the year in 1985, an honor given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the township.

Mr. Willcox also served on the township Open Space Board from January 1992 to February 2002, said Brenda L. Lamanna, assistant township manager.

Several years ago, Mr. Willcox received a service award from International House. He attended the awards dinner in a wheelchair, his son said.

"He was thrilled. People from all over the world were there. He was a very philanthropic man with not a whole lot of money, but a lot of heart," his son said.

He was a charter member of the Friends of Old St. Thomas - Ivy Mills, which helps to support Old St. Thomas the Apostle Church, the first Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

An avid sailor, he also enjoyed playing tennis and hunting rabbits on foot with the aid of beagles.

Mr. Willcox was married for more than 50 years to Jill Forbes. They met at a farm in Newtown Square.

"My father was there for dinner," his son said. "There was an English woman in the barn delivering a foal. She was a horse fanatic who had come over to work for the farmer. My father went to see the new foal, and that was that."

Surviving, in addition to his wife and son, are two granddaughters. A son, William Forbes, died in 1997.

A memorial service will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Old St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 430 Valley Brook Rd., Glen Mills. Interment will be in the family cemetery at the church.

Donations may be made to Friends of Old St. Thomas, 430 Valley Brook Rd., Glen Mills, Pa. 19342.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook

at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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