Lillian Willis Heitzman

By | February 21, 2019

Lillian Willis Heitzman, age 103, passed away on Feb. 19, 2019. She was born on Oct. 13, 1915 to Lulu Ada Springer Willis and Edmund Willis, Esq. She was the fourth of five children and survived them all (Vivian Willis Schellenger; Willard Willis, MD; Wendell Willis and Marian Willis Raabe) by many years. 

Her earliest memory was of hearing people in the streets and bells proclaiming the end of WW I in 1918.

She was born and grew up in her Wellston, Ohio home on Pennsylvania Avenue.  That home was later to be her home with her husband Dane and their children. 

When she was15, her beloved father died, leaving the family with modest means. After his funeral, she found out that among other charitable gifts, he had financed the higher education of some in the area who couldn’t otherwise afford college. She remembered her mother handing out sandwiches from their porch during the Depression. 

She attended Ohio State University and received a BA in music. From there she went to Columbia University to obtain a Master’s.  After receiving the highest grade in conducting there, she was told by her professor, “Never let anyone ever tell you that women can’t conduct!” But instead of getting her Master’s degree, Lillian joked that she instead “got her master”– wooed by Dane, who played jazz piano and quoted poetry to her. The war intervened soon after she and Dane were married in August of 1939. Dane enlisted. Lillian taught music in Coalton and South Webster.  Lillian expected that Dane would be sent to fight four times. But the army had other plans and the young couple moved to Ohio State where Dane was enrolled in an intensive engineering course. Their son Bob was born in 1944.

After the war ended, the family moved back to Wellston. Daughter Diedra was born in 1948.  When Diedra started school, Lillian was hired by Hamden schools. After searching out musical instruments, she developed a concert and marching band there. Her teaching and conducting skills were put to use, and she became a beloved teacher, working with students from their fourth grade year through high school. When Hamden consolidated, she was offered the music post in McArthur, but instead began teaching young students instrumental music in Wellston. She taught there until her retirement. She and Dane then moved to Rancho Bernardo, California, encouraged by Bob who, with his wife Rebecca, had made a home there. In retirement, she volunteered at the library and a senior services organization. She enjoyed her grandchildren! Her husband of 70 years, Dane, passed away in 2010.

She is survived by her son, Robert  D. Heitzman, DDS and his wife, Rebecca Zimmerman Heitzman; grandson,  Brandt Heitzman; granddaughter, Bryn Heitzman Salt, MD;  her daughter, Diedra Heitzman, and husband, Michael Babitch; granddaughters, Tascha Babitch and Lia Babitch Sumners; grandson, Dylan Heitzman  Babitch; and seven great-grandchildren.

Her ashes, along with Dane’s, will be interred in Ridgewood Cemetery in Wellston.  Online condolences can be sent to the family at