“Gone From My Sight” by Henry Jackson Van Dyke


I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side.

And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"

there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying...


Ben Willis Jr.

From his home in Norfolk, VA Benjamin Johnson Willis Jr .left this world to meet his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, on July 9, 2017. Ben was born on June 3, 1920 to Benjamin Johnson Willis Sr and Alice Robertson Willis. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister Alice Willis Denny. Ben was a lifelong resident of Norfolk and while he was a private, humble and gentle person, he believed in duty, honor and responsibility which guided his life. Ben was an Eagle Scout and supported Scouting as an adult. He graduated from Maury High School in 1938 and from Hampden Sydney College in 1942. During the summer in Virginia Beach he was a lifeguard in front of the Warner Hotel and cultivated a fondness of swimming. He was convinced that an ocean swim was superior to an ordinary pool swim.  He studied at the University of Virginia and lived on the lawn until his studies were interrupted when he was called to service by the US Navy. He was a salvage diver on the USS Moreno during World War II. He was later called back into service and took command of LST 1154, the USS Tallahatchie County, during the Korean War. He remained in the Naval Reserves until his retirement as a Commander.

He worked in the family business, Willis Furniture Company, with his Grandfather, Father, Uncles and numerous family members.  Upon his Father's death in 1965, he assumed the leadership role until his retirement from daily duties in 1998; thereafter, he remained involved in the business until his death. Ben was a leader in the furniture industry having served as Chairman of the Southern Home Furnishings Association and having served 11 years on the Board of the National Home Furnishings Association.

He was a member of Ghent United Methodist Church and the Lambeth Bible Class. Ben was one of the first and longest serving members of the Board of Trustees of Virginia Wesleyan College. He was also President of the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Children's Home in Richmond, Va.

He was a member of the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, the Princess Anne Country Club, the Norfolk Rotary Club, and the Norfolk German Club. He served as Chairman of the Board of directors of the Better Business Bureau, and of the Retail Merchants Association of Tidewater (The Retail Alliance), and served as a Board Member of the former Crestar Bank.

Ben had deep Virginia roots on his mother's side and was a member of the Jamestown Society.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Blair Robertson Willis, the jewel in his crown, his daughter Martha Blair FitzGerald and husband Chip, son Jeff R. Willis, MD and wife Lauren Willis, MD and son Ben Willis III and wife Jenny and grandchildren PJ and Blair FitzGerald, Claire, Anna, Audrey, and Megan Willis and Xander and Caroline Willis.

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