Ursula Willis

August 15, 1929 ~ March 4, 2018 (age 88)

Ursula Margaret Oxley Willis died Sunday, March 4 in the hospice room at Monadnock Community Hospital the day after a joyful party in her room with her entire family.  She was very grateful to the nurses, LNAs, doctors, and technicians at Monadnock Family Care and the Emergency Room and Medical-Surgical Unit at the hospital, and to the police and EMTs, who all provided wonderful care.

Ursula was born August 15, 1929 in Maspeth, NY, the daughter of Josephine (Appleby) and Henry von Zarsk, and grew up with her parents in Scarsdale, NY, and her mother in Cambridge, MA.  She attended Cambridge Latin, the Northfield School, and Boston University.  Ursula married Robert John Oxley in 1950 and they moved with their children, Janet and Doug, to Exeter, NH, where Ursula, Janet, and Doug continued to live after Robert's death in 1965.

Ursula married the very fortunate John O. Willis on January 3, 1970, in Scarborough, Maine, with Janet and Doug serving as bridesmaid and best man, and the family moved to Francestown, Greenfield, and finally, in 1972, to Peterborough. 

Ursula pursued an extraordinary career in human services.  Among many other contributions, she was a Children's Librarian for the Boston Public Library, where she nominated Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings for the Caldecott Medal; a teacher, speech therapist, and director at the Bixler House private school for children with special needs in Exeter; and the founding Director of the Newmarket (NH) Day Care Center (the first major New Hampshire day care center since World War II), where she supervised VISTA volunteers and was instrumental in developing and running Disadvantaged Women for High Education in Durham, NH.  After moving to the Peterborough area, Ursula was a speech clinician at the Crotched Mountain School and served on the Board of the Monadnock Day Care Center, stepping in as Director when the first Director, Robin Hansen, suddenly died.  Ursula also volunteered long hours with Winifred Clark's Neighbors Helping Neighbors ride service, serving as Director from 1978 through 1981.  Ursula later provided private career counseling services to people in the Monadnock region for many years.  Ursula's particular love was working with children with cerebral palsy and she is quoted on that subject in Jerome Sattler's Assessment of Children: Cognitive Foundations. Following that passion, Ursula served as Executive Director of New Hampshire's United Cerebral Palsy.  Ursula will be gratefully remembered by many people.

Ursula is survived by her beloved children and son- and daughter-in-law, Janet and Bernard Hecht of Hancock, NH, and Douglas Oxley and Amy Magnarelli of Hampton Falls, NH, her beloved grandson, Robert Hecht, of Portsmouth, NH, and her loving husband, John, of Peterborough.  She was predeceased by her beloved granddaughter, Anna Hecht.  Ursula was loved by her family.

Jellison Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.  At Ursula's request, there will be no public service.  Anyone wishing to acknowledge Ursula is invited to make a contribution to Monadnock Community Hospital, the River Center, the Peterborough Food Pantry, or the Peterborough Town Library.

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