St. Kilian native Willis J. Bruns, a retired Air Force officer and ophthalmic engineer, passed away peacefully July 5 in his Redlands, California, home following a courageous battle with cancer. He was 77.
The son of Henry and Catherine Bruns, Willis was born Nov. 8, 1930, on his family’s farm near St. Kilian.
A 1948 graduate of Worthingon High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1951, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel during a distinguished 23-year career that included a 13-month deployment to Vietnam as a pilot with the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron.
After retiring from the Air Force, Willis embarked upon a successful second career in the ophthalmic industry in southern California. In addition to serving in leadership positions with several companies, he was also named on three patents related to the engineering and production of intraocular lenses.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Virginia Sue, and their three children: Mary Creighton of Montreal, Canada; Robert Bruns of Huntington Beach, California; and Kathleen Apodaca of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
His family requests that tributes in his honor take the form of donations to the American Cancer Society or VNA Hospice of Southern California.