Willis Warren Gardner

May 25, 1931 – Nov. 19, 2013

Willis Warren Gardner, a former vice president at Waukesha Bearings, died Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in Oconomowoc after battling cancer. He was 82 years old.

Willis was born May 25, 1931, in Monmouth, Ill., and in 1953 he graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science degree with highest distinction in mechanical engineering.

The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee awarded him a master’s degree in engineering.

Following active duty in Germany, Willis was hired in 1956 as a mechanical engineer at the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co. and later at Borg Warner Corp. in Des Plaines, Ill.

In 1960, Willis began his long career with Waukesha Bearings Corp. as an assistant chief engineer. He rose to the position of vice president until his retirement in 1998. His work included designing seal bearings for major hydroelectric turbines, generators and for U.S. Naval submarines. He held 24 patents. Waukesha Bearings honored him in 2001 for his contributions to fluid film bearing technology by establishing the Willis W. Gardner Technology Center, a research and development facility in Pewaukee.

Willis was elected a Life Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1998 and was named Engineer of the Year 2000 by the Milwaukee chapter. In 2009, Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering honored him with the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer award. Willis served on the Waukesha Memorial Hospital Foundation Board and was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Waukesha for 44 years.

Willis and Marilyn Joyce Hilsenhoff were married for more than 60 years until her death in September 2013.

Willis is survived by two children, Charles (Patricia Sandrock) of Waukesha and Sarah (James Bowie) of Culver City, Calif.; two sisters, Celinda Del Zotto of Lakewood, Colo., and Imogene Holiday of Albuquerque, N.M.; and his grandchildren, John, Nora, Julia and Eli.

A memorial service for Willis will be held Feb. 15, 2014, at First United Methodist Church, 121 Wisconsin Ave., Waukesha, with visitation from 10:30 a.m. until the 11:30 a.m. memorial service. The Rev. Dan Schwerin will preside.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org/donate.

Randle-Dable-Brisk Funeral, Cremation and Preplanning Services is honored to serve the family. For further information, please call the funeral home at 547-4035 or visit our website at www.waukeshafunerals.com for directions or to leave the family an online tribute message.