Willis “Willie” Saulsgiver, 1930-2019

Willis “Willie” Edward Saulsgiver passed away peacefully at St. Anthony Hospital, Michigan City, IN, on Thursday, May 9, 2019, after a brief illness.

He was born March 28, 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 bricklayer for more than 60 years. He and his longtime 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, and the Kesling family home of LaPorte, just to mention a few. If you are driving throughout LaPorte, 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 sone 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 would stop by and were 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 pastime 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 building projects included 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 and William “Bill” Phelan of LaPorte; daughters, Marianne LaBarre of Nashville, TN, and Lisa (Otto) Bohner of Bantry, Ireland; and daughter-in-law, Char Saulsgiver of LaPorte. He also 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 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 of 45 years, Lillian; son, Don Saulsgiver; brothers, John, Charles and Harry Saulsgiver; and 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.

Cremation will take place. A private burial will take place at a later date. Frank L. Keszei Funeral Home, Essling Chapel, LaPorte, is handling arrangements.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Union Mills Conservation Club.

Messages of condolence may be posted below on WNLP as well as at www.esslingfuneralhome.com.

3 Responses to “Willis “Willie” Saulsgiver, 1930-2019”

  1. Virginia Behenna

    May 13. 2019

    Dear Bill, John, Megan, Colton, Hannah, and Char,

    Deepest sympathy to all of you. Such a great, kind hearted and gentle loving man. He will be missed by many. He leaves behind great memories for us to talk about for years to come.

    Time to rest Will, you’ve earned your wings.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Donna Smith Hunsley

    May 13. 2019

    John, Bill, Marianne and Lisa,

    Our deepest sympathies to you all. Willie was a talented man.

    Howie & Donna Hunsley

    Reply to this comment
  3. Kathy West

    May 14. 2019

    Char, so sorry to hear of your loss. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Reply to this comment

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