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The Blue & Gray Press | November 22, 2017

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University mourns loss of beloved student

BY COLLEEN HUBER

Former University of Mary Washington Student, Isiah Willis, died in a single-vehicle wreck on Saturday, Nov. 9. Willis was in the car with his mother, 47-year-old Cindy Willis and grandfather, 69-year-old Thomas Willis, both of whom died at the scene.

The accident occurred around 1 p.m. on I-95 in Prince George County near mile marker 42 when the car ran off the left side of the road, according to and article on WTVR.com.

According to state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller, no one was wearing a seatbelt.

When Willis was enrolled at UMW, he played for Mother’s Rugby. According to Hannah Mason, senior and team manager, Willis continued to play rugby when he left, playing for the D.C. Men’s team.

Willis was unable to return to UMW due to financial issues, according to Mason.

“I knew him since sophomore year,” said Mason, who said she became good friends with Willis soon after meeting him.

Over the years, Mason and Willis became close friends.

“He had a really contagious personality,” said Mason. “He knew how to brighten someone’s day. He could really read people.”

Mason said that Willis was always trying to help others around him.

“He was so selfless,” said Mason. “He definitely knew how to make people comfortable right off the bat.”

Mason said that together, Willis and she would go to the Latin dance club.

“He was a really good dancer. He loved to dance and he loved music,” said Mason.

She found out about Willis’ death on Sunday, Nov. 10, through a group text.

“I didn’t believe it at first because it was said so nonchalantly,” said Mason. “It was a shocker. It’s still a shocker.”

Mason said that Willis was deeply involved with his family, and he saw himself as a role model for his younger siblings.

“He wanted to be someone for his younger siblings,” said Mason.

Bill Brownley, a coach for the rugby team, said that Willis spent a lot of time with the team during his time at UMW.

“He was such a fierce player,” said Brownley. “He never quit.”

According to Brownley, Willis always tried to help out his teammates in any way he could.

“He was one of those players who had time for the players who were less gifted,” said Brownley. “He was a great teammate.”

Brownley described Willis as having an “always sunny” personality. Tim Brown, director of rugby, echoed Brownley’s sentiments.

“He was a great kid,” said Brown. “There is no way he could walk into a room and not be friends with everyone.”

Brown described Willis’ personality as unique and said that Willis was a phenomenal athlete who excelled at rugby.

“There was no one that could touch him,” said Brown. “He really did not have holes in his game.”

Inspired by Willis, the rugby team is planning on creating an annual scholarship in the future for students who, like Willis, need help with the cost of college.

“We want to take the hard edge off of a kid in the future,” said Brown.

According to Mason, a memorial for Willis is in the works.

“I completely loved him,” said Mason. “He definitely leaves behind a legacy. I don’t think anyone could say anything bad about him.”