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Willys Irvine Peck J.D. ’62, a lifelong Saratogan, passed away on April 16. He was 89.
He was born August 21, 1923, and through the years became an iconic representative of the World War II generation. His spaciousness of soul was nourished in the orchards bordering his first childhood home; his character honed itself through the jobs he picked up around town, delivering magazines and groceries, cleaning houses, and getting up at 2 a.m. on Sundays to start the furnace in the church. Many of his adult passions were seeded in his youth. The printer’s ink in his blood flowed from his newspaperman father, Llewellyn Peck, and his love for the witty and elegant turn of phrase came both from his father and his mother Lida, who was dedicated to good literature and writing. Willys considered himself a lucky man. A veteran of WWII, he was a member of the 20th armored division, one of three divisions credited by the U.S. army with the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in 1945. Yet he felt lucky to have entered the war late enough to return home unscathed. His next big stroke of luck was his marriage to Betty Ruth Wesson in 1952. Their home in Saratoga, with its giant oaks and the creek running behind the house, gave them the space to build a magical environment, with an amphitheater for producing theatrical events, a railroad that circled the house, a train station, blacksmith shop, and printing museum complete with linotype. An avid hand-press printer, Willys was a member of the San Jose Printer’s Guild. He was passionate about theater, trains and the written word. He was an author, a playwright and a poet. Willys graduated from UC Berkeley in 1949 and began his career as a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News (for a tribute from that paper, read here) as a copy editor and assistant city editor. Years later he wrote a column for the Saratoga News. In 1962 he graduated from Santa Clara Law School and practiced law until returning to the Mercury where he continued to work on the city desk even after his official retirement in 1989 for a total of 55 years. Active in preserving his town’s history, Willys was involved in the Saratoga Historical Foundation and Museum, Montalvo’s Phelan Library, and the California History Center. He was a member of the Saratoga Men’s Club and the Saratoga Federated Church where he was christened when "both he and the Julia Morgan Chapel were new." Involved in his community, he served on many local boards including the West Valley-Mission Community College District Foundation. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty, two children, Bill Peck of Santa Clara and Anna Rainville of Saratoga, two granddaughters, Sarah and Merina Rainville, and son-in-law, Don Rainville.