Sept. 26, 1949 - June 14, 2020
Reverend Michael Kent Willard, 70, of Eatonton, went to be with the Lord on Sunday, June 14, 2020. He was born in Athens on September 26, 1949, the oldest of eight children. His mother was the late Mrs. Dorothy Payne Willard, and his father was the late Reverend Sanford N. Willard, who is survived by his wife Mrs. Betty Willard.
Mike graduated from Douglas County High School in 1967 and took his experience as a state championship winning football player all the way to Presbyterian College, where he played college football. After his time at PC, he joined the United States Army, and he quickly earned the rank of Staff Sergeant and went on to serve a year in Vietnam.
In 1972, Mike married Shanon Potts from Center, GA. Mike answered his call into ministry, and the couple moved to Augusta, GA where he served two United Methodist Churches: Friendship and Blythe. Mike earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English from Augusta College, and then he and Shanon moved to Eatonton in 1974. Mike served five United Methodist Churches on the East Putnam Circuit for eight years.
At the beginning of Mike’s ministry in Eatonton, he attended the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta alongside his father, Reverend Sanford Willard – such a special and unique experience in his life. In addition to theology school and ongoing ministry, Mike coached several recreation league football and baseball teams and was an avid tennis player. Mike then earned his certification as a teacher and went on to teach for seven years at Putnam County High School – he coached football the entire time, being the head football coach for three of those years.
He then served Prospect United Methodist Church in Mansfield, GA for 12 years. During that time, Mike and Shanon’s children, Caleb and Kelly, were born. After serving at Prospect Church, he went on to become the pastor of Liberty Chapel in Eatonton for 15 years. When Mike felt his time there was finished, he answered God’s call of starting a non-denominational church, and he named it Bible Fellowship Church. Mike served as pastor of Bible Fellowship Church for eight years.
Not only was Mike a minister for 48 years, but he also had other full-time jobs outside of the church during this time, working for Horton Homes for 26 years and at Haband for two. But ministry was always his calling, his true purpose in life.
Mike loved his family with a fierceness that can hardly be described, and he was nothing if not a constant presence in his children’s lives. That often showed up in the form of coaching at Gatewood and in recreation leagues over the summer: from Kelly’s middle school basketball team, to Caleb’s baseball and football teams, to both of their little league baseball teams. Mike poured his heart into his children.
Mike and Shanon have lived in Eatonton for 45 years. During that time, Mike performed countless wedding ceremonies, funerals, baptisms, baby dedications, and counseling sessions. His true love was God, and he took so much pride in spreading His word through preaching on Sundays and every day in between. He deeply loved and appreciated the community of Eatonton, and that’s why he stayed here with his family all these years.
Reverend Willard is survived by his wife, Shanon Willard and children Caleb and Kelly (Nick). Reverend Willard’s siblings are Rita Dorsey (Wayne), Anita Andrews, Christy Cotton (Ted), Reverend Keith Willard (Kathy), Sanford “Sandy” N. Willard, Jr. (Christi), Robert Willard, and sister-in-law Debbie Willard. He is also survived by 13 nieces and nephews.
The Celebration of Life service for Reverend Willard will be held on Thursday, June 18th at 7PM at Bible Fellowship Church (190 Old Phoenix Road NE). The service will be outside in front of the church, and chairs will be spaced apart.
In lieu of sending flowers, if you feel so led, please make a donation to Bible Fellowship Church or another church of your choice in memory of Reverend Mike Willard.
Vining Ivy Hill Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.