Willis (“Willie”) Edward Saulsgiver passed away peacefully at St. Anthony’s Hospital on Thursday, May 9th, 2019, after a brief illness. Cremation will take place. Arrangements have been entrusted to Frank L. Keszei Funeral Home, Essling Chapel, La Porte, Indiana. A private burial will take place at a later date. Donations can be made to the Union Mills Conservation Club in his memory.
Willis was born on March 28th, 1930 to David and Mary Saulsgiver in the coal mining town of Chickasaw, PA. In 1947, the Saulsgiver family left Chickasaw to start a new life in northwest Indiana, residing in Valparaiso.
Willis was a very proud brick layer of over 60 years. He and long-time friend, Jim Morgan started their own business – Morgan & Saulsgiver Masonry. Willis’ work can be seen throughout several counties such as the chapel at Valparaiso University, Orville Redenbacher’s home in Valparaiso, the Kessling family of La Porte, and his son John's home in Union Mills, just to mention a few. If you are driving throughout La Porte, Porter and Lake County and see some beautiful stone walls or some elaborate stone or brick mailboxes, it was most likely done by him.
At age 69, Willis built his home of solid stone in Union Mills, IN, where he lived the remainder of his life. The beautiful stone castle captures a lot of attention in the small town. Many passersby stop by and are greeted at the door by his friendly face. He would proudly offer to take them on a tour of the home and share stories of how he collected all of the stone from local fields throughout the county and how each plank of wood on the walls and ceiling were all hand planed and tongue and grooved by him. Willis knew no strangers. He was liked by everyone who knew him.
Throughout his life, he enjoyed building as well as making furniture as a past time for his close friends and family. There wasn’t anything Willis could not do. He once said, “if someone else can do it, so can I!” His projects ranged from building elaborate cabinets, fishing lures, fishing pole handles, and most recently end grain cutting boards.
He was an avid fisherman who taught his children and grandchildren the joys of fishing. You may have to be careful with him, however, Willis was known to hook someone a time or two while setting the hook!
Willis began trapping after being introduced to it by his father-in-law, John Metts, who was the biggest trapper and fur buyer in the region. He taught his son, Bill how to trap and hunt and they spent many hours doing this together.
He enjoyed spending time hunting, fishing and served as the Boy Scout leader in Hanna, IN, with his late son, Don Saulsgiver.
Willis leaves behind sons: John (Dixie) Phelan of Union Mills, IN, William (“Bill”) Phelan of La Porte, IN, Marianne LaBarre of Nashville, TN, and Lisa (Otto) Bohner of Bantry, Ireland and daughter-in-law, Char Saulsgiver of La Porte, IN. He leaves behind his grandchildren: Carrie Ann DeGroote, Jamie Saulsgiver, Michael LaBarre, Zachary LaBarre, Colton Phelan, Adrianna Phelan, Stephen Murphy, Joshua LaBarre, Sean Brennan, Megan Kozlowski, Taylor Murphy, Amber Brennan, Hannah Phelan, Nolan Phelan and Mary Phelan. He also leaves behind seven (7) Great-Grandchildren in addition to his baby sister, Thelma Miller of Valparaiso. He leaves behind special friends Becky Gould and long-time laborer Danny Wilkes.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Lillian of 45 years; son, Don Saulsgiver. Brothers: John, Charles, and Harry Saulsgiver. Sisters: Aldiene Bowersox and Betty Luke.
Willis will be missed by the many lives he touched. His joke telling, endless stories, life lessons, and advice will truly be missed by all.
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