Jim Wills reflects on leading a fulfilling life for Elder Speak event Sept. 8
Every person has a story to tell and a unique perspective on life. I have been enamored with the Elder Speak program put on by the Ripple Foundation because it brings together elders to share their life experience and wisdom.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, 2 p.m. at Snowy Owl Theater in Leavenworth, four individuals will be sharing their stories and insights at an event that is open to the public. One of the participants is Jim Wills, a recent transplant to our valley but one who has lived the life of an entrepreneur.
Wills grew up in Spokane and benefitted greatly from his time in the Boy Scouts, rising to the level of Eagle Scout, with the encouragement and help of his father. At the time the lessons learned as he achieved merit badges didn’t seem all that important, but later in life he discovered its powerful life lessons.
Scouts taught him about the power of relationships and working in teams as well as introducing him to all kinds of experiences, from swimming to building bridges. He recalls constructing a bridge in his back yard. “On an overnight or Boy Scout camp, you learn you have to get along with people,” Wills told me.
I interviewed Wills for my Art of Community NCW podcast which can be accessed at artofcommunityncw.com.
After college and a stint selling products for Crown Zellerbach, he decided to try his hand as a businessman by purchasing and running a drive-in restaurant in Cheney. After a time, he added a second drive-in located in Spokane and then built a steakhouse in Cheney. Once again, success in the business came down to working with people effectively, Wills said.
After 10 years, he sold the businesses and went to work for Washington State University in human resources, which ultimately led to running the office of grant and research development.
Wills said it took time for researchers to learn to trust his ability to process grant proposals, but his ability to work with people was put to good use. He read and submitted thousands of research proposals over 15 years in that role. They could count on him to follow through and add value to the research ideas.
Throughout his career, Wills had ambition, drive and was never satisfied with work that was merely good enough. His attention to detail and commitment to quality work, combined with his ability to work with people, drove his success.
Three years ago, Wills and his wife Joyce moved to the valley to be closer to their children. Earlier this year, Joyce passed away and Wills has been dealing with that loss.
Wills is quite impressed with the Wenatchee Valley Senior Center and what it has to offer in terms of staying active and involved. He considered himself a novice at computers and has been learning more through the center’s programs.
“I’m a person that has to be doing things all of the time,” said Wills. To that end, his 12-year-old rescue dog Reba keeps him active. “We took her on when she was eight and she’s the love of my life,” he told me.
It occurs to me that Wills is a tremendous resource in our community in terms of his knowledge of grants as well as what it takes to succeed in business. We have elders in North Central Washington with much to contribute to enhance our quality of life.