Roy Willitts; served six terms as head of Willingboro board

Roy S. Willitts
Roy S. Willitts
Posted: July 13, 2013

Roy S. Willitts, 95, chairman of the Willingboro Township Planning Board for six one-year terms in the 1980s and 1990s, died Friday, June 28, at his home in Willingboro.

Mr. Willitts owned several La Belle dry cleaning stores, one after the other, in Willingboro and Edgewater Park from the 1960s into the 1990s, daughter Lisa said.

Mr. Willitts became a member of the planning board in 1980 and resigned in 1992, then returned as a member from 1994 to 2004, a township official said.

During those years, he was chairman in 1984, 1987, 1991, 1996, 1999, and 2001.

Born in Atlantic City, where his mother ran a boardinghouse and his father was a firefighter, Mr. Willitts was 24 in 1941 when the United States entered World War II.

After working as an industrial engineer at Radio Corp. of America in Camden from 1940 to 1943, he was a shipboard electrician until 1946 and served in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific.

Mr. Willitts was on a tanker in Tokyo Bay in 1945 when the Japanese formally surrendered, his daughter said.

From 1946 to 1949, he was a foreman for an electrical contracting firm in Atlantic City, where, she said, "he did electrical engineering in many of the homes on Atlantic Avenue."

During that time, she said, "he also taught a course in electricity in public high school in Atlantic City."

Mr. Willitts then began his own advanced education, in the year that he turned 32.

Moving to Cincinnati, he was an engineering supervisor for an advertising display company, designing neon signs during the day while taking night classes in electrical engineering at the University of Cincinnati, both from 1949 to 1951.

When he returned to Philadelphia in 1951, his daughter said, he was not only a project engineer, testing turrets for Navy bombers at a Philco plant, but also was taking evening classes in business administration at Temple University.

His last engineering job was designing missile systems for a division of the former American Bosch firm in Philadelphia from 1959 to 1963, she said.

A 32d-degree Mason, Mr. Willitts was a 50-year member of the Willingboro Rotary Club and was its president in 1974-75.

He sailed until his late 70s, first in an 18-foot sailboat, then a 21-footer, then a 30-footer.

Besides his daughter, Mr. Willitts is survived by two grandchildren. His wife of 67 years, Elizabeth, died in March.

A life celebration was set for 10 a.m. Friday, July 12, at Goes-Scolieri Funeral Home, 212 Levitt Parkway, Willingboro, N.J. 08046, before an 11 a.m. service.

Condolences may be offered to the family at the above address.

Contact Walter F. Naedele at 610-313-8134, or follow on Twitter @WNaedele.

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