Eugene Maurice Willis (known as “Shike”) was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts on 13 October 1933. He was the fourth of 5 children born to Eugene Snr and Mary Willis (nee McCarty).
He graduated from West Newbury High School in 1951 – the high school’s last graduating class. He then went on to Lowell Tech, graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice.
From 1952-55 he served in the US Air Force.
In 1958 Shike became the youngest police chief in Massachusetts, serving part-time in West Newbury for twelve years. In 1970 he became a full-time police chief in West Newbury. Shike had also been the constable and truant officer for West Newbury for many years, as well as a school bus driver from 1965 to 1970, and again from 1980 to 1999.
Shike’s wife, Jacqueline, said he was a bus driver “because he loved kids”. His love for children was also the reason that he was a coach for the West Newbury Little League Red Sox team and a member of the West Newbury Parks and Recreation Committee.
He was a member of the American Legion Post No 240 of West Newbury, and ran the West Newbury Memorial Day parade ceremonies for many years.
In his free time Shike enjoyed gardening. He helped with the plowing and haying of local fields and he liked to grow gladioli. At one point, he had more than 1,000 of the plants in his garden.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Willis leaves one daughter, Paula M. Giampa of West Newbury; one brother, John J. Willis of West Newbury; one sister, Maryann Kardek of Amesbury; two granddaughters; and several nieces and nephews.
In 2003 a citizen initiative sought to name a new $3.4 million West Newbury Public Safety Complex after Shike, despite unanimous lack of support from selectmen and the committee charged with building the complex. A public campaign saw ‘I Like Shike’ lawn signs appearing around the town.
“I consider it an honour to be nominated for it,” Shike said. “Like the Academy Awards, it’s an honour to be nominated. I’d like it to go through, but let the chips lay where they fall”.
But the Board of Selectmen and the Public Safety Building Committee preferred the name West Newbury Public Safety Complex, which had been used through the development process. Police Chief Jonathon Dennis, the building committee chair, noted that the complex would house not only police, but also firefighters, the town’s Emergency Management Agency, and dispatchers. He said that to name the complex for an individual from one department might seem unfair to others.
Shike declined to comment on the opinion that naming the building for one individual, or one department, would be unfair to other individuals or public safety departments. “Everybody has their feelings,” he said. “Like the group of people behind me.”
Extracts from The Boston Globe: ‘Fairness called key in naming of complex’ (19th October 2003) and ‘Eugene Willis Jr.,71; was police chief‘ (2nd Dec 2004)