Dr. James “Jim” Willey


Dr. James Lee Willey or ‘Jim’ to his friends passed away on August 23, 2020.  He was 66 years old.  He was born on October 26, 1953 as the first son of Elwood L. Willey and Dorothy J. Willey.  He was raised in Batavia together with his two younger siblings, Larry and Julie. 

                Jim met his wife, Catherine Whitmer, in his freshman year of college in a chemistry study group.  They were married on August 23, 1975.  In 1979, they moved to nearby Elburn, where he founded Elburn Dental on Main Street.  Jim was a devoted husband and father of twin boys, Andrew and David.  He shared with them his love of history, the outdoors, and music.  He was extremely proud of his time as an Assistant Scoutmaster to Elburn’s Boy Scout Troop 7.  He was always great with children, using his famous humor and patience to win them over.  This was as true on Boy Scout camping trips as it was at Elburn Dental, where his ‘Crocodile Club’ encouraged numerous young people to share their fresh smiles after a cleaning from Doc Willey.  After Catherine’s passing in 2006, he found love and companionship later in life with Grace Ann Pastorelli.

                 Jim devoted himself to community service.  For over twenty years, he served as coordinator for the Elburn Days Parade.  He also played taps for Elburn’s Memorial Day services for many years.  In 1995, he became a Village Trustee, and later served as Elburn’s Village President for three terms from 1997 to 2009.  As Village President, he led Elburn through a period of growth and development, perhaps best exemplified by the extension of Metra’s Union Pacific West line to Elburn.

                In 2006, Jim left dental practice to work as a director for the American Dental Association in Chicago.  He was instrumental in the establishment of the ADA’s Center for Professional Success, which provided resources and guidance for young dentists.  He retired in 2019, looking forward to devoting time, as he always did, to his family, particularly his young grandson, Arthur.  He continued to devote time to his hobbies and passions, including Civil War history, trains, and photography.

Jim was preceded in death by his wife of thirty years, Catherine Willey.  He is survived by two sons, Andrew Willey and his partner Jennifer Gagnon, and David Willey and his wife Iris Willey, and one grandson Arthur.  He is also survived by his longtime partner, Grace Ann Pastorellli and his siblings, Julie Shepherd and her husband John Shepherd, and Larry Willey and his wife Jo Willey.  His funeral will be a private family service.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the Illinois State Dental Society Foundation, which provides free dental care to patients with limited financial resources and supports initiatives to expand access to dental care.

You can donate online here: https://bestcardteam.com/other/ISDFDon.html Private family services will be held at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. Video of the service will be available Tuesday evening on the Conley Funeral Home Facebook Page.

23 thoughts on “Dr. James “Jim” Willey

  1. To all of the family and friends of Jim, I express my condolences at this time of loss. Jim and I became acquainted in the first year of Jr. High in 8C. It didn’t hurt that we were both cornet players, and later both “Jewel boys” packing groceries and stocking shelves. Over the years, and with diverging vocations, our contacts were few and far between, but there was always a connection from those challenging, formative and exciting years at Batavia Jr. High and Sr. High. God bless.

  2. My mom Lucille is sad to loose Jim.
    I am heart broken for my dear friends passing. He left me with a
    Treasure house of fond memories.
    Feel the breeze my friend.

  3. My dear friend. The word of your passing was a very sad day for your family and our community. Your devotion to your family and your love for Elburn and its residents was evident everyday. I had the honor and privilege to serve with you on the Village Board for many years. Your leadership was inspiring. We truly accomplished a great deal under your leadership. I have always considered you my mentor Jim. You will be missed my friend. Vicki and I send our heartfelt love and sympathy to your entire family. May God bless you and all of your family and rest in peace.


    Jeff and Vicki Metcalf
    Elburn, IL. 60119

  4. Jim was the love of my sisters life for the last almost 14 years. He was like a brother to me & my other sisters. And a true uncle to all of our kids. He will be truly missed by our family. My heartfelt condolences to David & Andrew & their families. Also to Jim’s sister & brother & their families as well. Rest In Peace Jim

  5. To the Willey Families – Jim was the sweetest cousin a person could have. He always looked on the positive side of things, encouraging us to strive for better. He will live on in our hearts. Prayers & love, Chris

  6. Jim was always Dr. Willie to me. He made going to the dentist fun. He would have you laughing so hard by the time it was over you forgot you’d even had dental work done. I was one of the many members of the crocodile club.

    My parents were also good friends with Jim through the years.

    I’ll always remember his incredible sense of humor and great disposition on life. He has left a timeless legacy that won’t be forgotten.

  7. It always puzzled me why some people are afraid of visiting the dentist. Maybe that’s because I grew up going to the friendliest, wittiest, most technically adept dentist on the planet. I will always remember Dr. Willey fondly for his ability to make me, and certainly many children like me, feel at ease in his dental office. Every time I drive past the location of his former office in Elburn, I think of him—and I always will. He was a great man.

  8. Dear Willey Family, The Wades send there deepest condolences. Looks like Jim had an amazing life. God Bless.

  9. Jim is family. To me, honoring the love we felt for him meant officially adding his picture and birthday several years ago to the calendar I assemble for my Mom to mark each new year. Jim is sadly the first member of that calendar that we’ve lost through his passing on but he will always have a spot in the calendar. He earned this permanent legacy of love by his thoughtful and caring acts of kindness to all of us. He was with us in happy times and stood by us in some of our saddest days. He reached out to me personally just this month as I faced my most terrifying health crisis. He lifted my spirits and he made me laugh…….two hallmarks of Jim’s personality. I will miss you, my brother in heart.

  10. It was my pleasure to serve with Jim on the Elburn Village Board from 2003 thru 2009. A wonderful man with great vision and understanding of how to be a public servant. He will be missed. Our sincere sympathy.

  11. I had the pleasure of working with Jim and I enjoyed his delightful sense of humor and lively curiosity. My heartfelt condolences to his friends and loved ones.

  12. Jim was an exceptional man, friend and colleague whose passing represents a huge loss to his beloved profession of dentistry and his community. Wishing peace and comfort to his family and the many who were close to him.

  13. Jim Willey was probably one of the nicest individuals I have known. I first got to know Jim when I was a young dentist at Illinois State Dental Society functions in the late 80’s. He was very involved and I was just starting to get involved. Jim was an officer of the PAC at the time; he knew how to get everyone involved and passionate about the legislative concerns of the dental society. Jim did it with optimism & good sense of humor.

    Fast forward to Jim’s American Dental Association career and that is when I really got to know him. In 2011 I became a member of the Council of Dental Practice. It was there that I saw Jim’s true leadership skills, his passion for the profession, his love of the Civil War and trains. Jim knew how to get the best out of all of us and he knew how to get his point across with kindness. In his story telling of history or trains he was able to relate those to what ever we as a council were working on, enabling us to get to the nuance of the problem on hand.

    The world is a better place due to Jim Willey.

    I am a better person for having known Jim.

    Joe Unger

  14. Jim was a wonderful colleague and a pleasure to work with, especially his sense of humor. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

  15. Dr. Willey was the first person to welcome me to the ADA and say: “Hey! We’re glad you’re here!” During those first couple months on the job he’d often stop by my desk on his way out to quickly chat and check in. His calm, kind demeanor was certainly just “Jim being Jim”, but as the new kid on the block, it spoke volumes.

    May his memory be eternal.

  16. I loved Jim Willey. We laughed over Dilbert cartoons which he sent me routinely to brighten up a gloomy day. Jim enchanted my husband Steve with his knowledge of the Civil War and his amazing ability to call up Civil War Battle trivia at a moments notice. He loved sharing business books and we would often spend time discussing his interpretation versus my interpretation and he usually did not let me prevail. We shared kid stories and rejoiced in the arrival of Arthur-“nothing like the first grandkid” Jim shared his heart and his head with everyone at the American Dental Association and we mourn his loss –way before his time should have ended. All our condolences to Jim’s family and to Grace Ann.

  17. I only had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Willey a handful of times but felt like I already knew him because of the love Tommy McCartney and his late mother Candy Miller had for him. Jim was family. Tommy was lucky enough to live next door to Jim and his family when they lived on 1st St and with Candy being best friends with Cathy, Tommy said he always got the coolest hand me down toys from Andrew and David. Haha I have heard countless stories like how the Willeys would hand out handmade Carmel apples on Halloween and how Jim would come over every hear dressed as Santa. I know Candy was right there in Heaven greeting Jim with open arms when he came home, just as Cathy greeted her years ago. Tommy was very saddened by the news of Jim’s passing and we both send so much love to Andrew, David, Grace and the rest of the family. Another gone far too soon, but will never be forgotten.

  18. I am so saddened to hear this news! I first met Jim in 2010 when he attended his first event with our organization. . He brought both of his sons to our annual conference and was excited to share his love of history with them. We saw him here and there over the years, as time would allow, but we recently saw him at our 2019 conference in Lexington, KY with Grace Ann. It was so great to see him and get to experience his enthusiasm for history and his great sense of humor. He was a wonderful man and I am glad to share the impact he had. My sincere condolences.

    Bonnie Repasi
    American Battlefield Trust
    Washington, D.C.

  19. I also had the pleasure of working with Dr. Willey and always enjoyed his sense of humor and kind nature.

  20. Jim and I were colleagues at the ADA. Jim was simply incredible! Jim was one of the first staff to come all the way down to the 2nd floor and introduce himself to me upon my arrival in 2009. He offered his assistance in anything especially navigating the ADA and was helpful to me so many times along the way. One day while in my office he noticed a golf related magazine in my inbox and said that the magazine publishers still send him waiting room samples even after not practicing for several years. Jim would religiously drop by every few weeks with Golf Digest and Golf Magazine from that day forward. These are the thoughtful and kind acts that Jim always made time for. I miss those magazines but I miss our visits that would accompany his deliveries even more. Hearing about his boys and his grandson were always a highlight and Jim was so proud of all of them. Jim was what my high school called a “man for others” and a complete role model for all humanity. You all remain in my thoughts and prayers.

  21. I was shocked to learn of Jim’s passing. I quickly remember back to my first interaction with Jim which was at the Illinois State Dental Society Leadership Conferences where he would share his poignant and humorous fund-raising stories to benefit the Illinois State Dental Society Foundation (then known as the Clopper Foundation). Because of Jim and his insight, the ISDS Clopper Foundation received numerous charitable gifts. I was proud to serve a long side Jim during his term on the Foundation Board in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Unfortunately for the ISDS, as Jim became more and more involved with the ADA, his time with the Clopper Foundation became less available, . . but his dedication to ISDS charitable activities was always in his heart. When he left his private practice in Elburn, we discussed and worked together with one of our SIU dental graduates who eventually took over the ongoing office. Then, beginning in 2003, I served on the ADA Council of Ethics Bylaws and Judicial Affairs, and I often ran into Jim during our Council meetings or in the hallways of the ADA Building. We shared many good times and wonderful memories based on mutual respect for organized dentistry. Truly a kind and gentle-man.

  22. Dr. Willey, thank you for your passion to serve dentists with even better quality of life and to help avoid dental burnout (your “Dental Burnout” article published September 1987). I am sad to have never met you in person, because I appreciate how you encouraged me. Jim, I look forward to a sharing when it’s my time and am grateful for your help to continue your legacy. Blessings to you, Audie

  23. Dr. Willey, thank you for your passion to serve dentists with even better quality of life and to help them avoid dental burnout (starting as far back as your “Dental Burnout” article published September 1987). I am sad to have never met you in person, because I appreciate how you encouraged me with a similar mission. Jim, I look forward to a sharing face to face when it’s my time and am grateful for your help to continue your legacy. Blessings to you, Audie

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