Willis’ modest personality and quiet demeanour tended to mask the important role he once played in the provision of nuclear energy, an industry in which he was employed from its infancy. After education at Hendon County Grammar School he joined Glynn Mills Bank but soon became disillusioned with his long term prospects. It was probably his living next door to the Handley Page aircraft factory (a target for frequent Luftwaffe air-raids, which he observed close-hand as a young ARP warden) that made him consider engineering as a career. He was sponsored by the War Ministry during his engineering training at Harris College, Preston and after qualification as a mechanical and electrical engineer he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers, serving as Squadron Operations officer in Egypt.
In 1949 he joined the newly created Central Electricity Generating Board as a graduate trainee working in the power stations. In 1958 he transferred to the emerging nuclear sector and spent some time at the first of these at Bradwell, Essex. In 1962 Willis joined the health and safety inspectorate for nuclear power stations based at the CEGB headquarters in London.
With this appointment, he also moved with his family, to live in Dulwich. A founder-member of the Dulwich Society, he served on the transport and gardens sub-committees. In retirement he turned his hand to furniture restoration, attending classes at Greenwich and developing great skill at the craft where his painstaking work encouraged him to take on ever more challenging work. One such challenge, and possibly the largest in actual size, was the restoration of the Dulwich Postal cart when it was rescued from a Tower Bridge antiques shop and looking in a sorry state. With Graham Nash, the restoration was meticulously completed and the cart will shortly be permanently on view at Rosebery Lodge, Dulwich Park.