Obituary

Sara Marjorie Massey Willis November 6, 1926 – December 20, 2020.

With heavy hearts we announce the death of Sara Marjorie Willis nee Massey. Born and raised in Barwick, Georgia, Marjorie graduated from Georgia State Women’s College in Valdosta and attended the New York School of Interior Design in NYC. She had a long and distinguished career in design and interior design in Dalton, GA, the birthplace of the broadloom carpet industry.

“Art is not a picture that you paint: it is a way of life. It is not only the expression of yourself; it is the understanding of yourself and others. (there is a danger) that we don’t find out who we are and what we are and establish and identify that lets us grow up and enables us to live life.” Marjorie Massey – quoted in a local Dalton paper

With her first husband Travis (Dusty) Rhodes, Marjorie originated numerous patents including astroturf. Marjorie’s most famous carpet design “Games People Play” is still used in US schools.

Marjorie’s appreciation of beauty is woven throughout her life as well as her commitment to mentoring numerous apprentices. She was one of the founders of the Creative Arts Guild in Dalton and a founding member of the Textile Museum of Canada.

Marjorie travelled and worked widely in the US and Europe. She set up a studio in Florence in the 70s and adopted Italy as her home for a number of years. Marjorie was fascinated by Etruscan art and ceramics, and became skilled in the restoration of ceramics.

In 1984 Marjorie met her second husband, Lionel, in Italian class at Eurocentro in Florence. They married in 1988 at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in Toronto where they both assisted refugees to settle in Canada. They returned to Florence in 1992 to work as volunteer sacristans at St. James Episcopal Church (la chiesa Americana). They enjoyed many adventures together including travels in Europe, moving to Toronto to enjoy their grandkids, and living in the snowy countryside of Ontario.

Marjorie is survived by her loving husband Lionel Willis (Toronto, ON); her son Danny and his wife Brenda (Dalton, GA); her sister Louise Strauss (Miami, FL) and brother Joseph (Dalton, GA). Marjorie was predeceased by her siblings Montez, Virginia, and Larry. Her step-sons Victor and Frank, daughter-in-law Susan, and her grandchildren William and Lauren Willis and Victoria Bonilla Willis will miss her dearly as will all whom Marjorie mentored.

A memorial will take place on-line on Saturday March 20th 2021 from 1-2 pm.

Donations to the Textile Museum of Canada in Marjorie’s name.


Due to the current pandemic restrictions and under direction from our regulator, the Bereavement Authority of Ontario, effective November 23, 2020 all funerals and visitations will be by invitation only to limit the number of people in attendance and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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