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 an identity 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 products including artificial turf. 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.

“To join the memorial please contact Victor at [email protected]

Donations to the Textile Museum of Canada in Marjorie’s name are most appreciated -

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.



Burial / Entombment / Cremation


January 02, 2023
D Lee Edwards
Only recently did I find out about Marjorie's passing. I think of her often as the most important influence in my artistic life. Indeed she thought and practiced all of life itself as an art and that was the main lesson for me. I lived in Dalton, Georgia from the ages of 7 to 15 (1957-1965) and during that time attending grade school with Marjorie's son Danny at a private Christian school. I often went to Marjorie and Travis Rhodes' house and they also took me along on family vacations to Florida. They were my second family, and a very different family than my own. It was the ever presence of creativity and openness to new ideas that so impressed me. I remember they moved to an amazing four story victorian house on the main road through Dalton. Marjorie decorated all the rooms in a very eclectic yet harmonious way. I remember things got moved around often. Furniture and decoration was always changing and evolving. She encouraged me in my own beginnings in art. I took some art classes in the new Creative Arts Guild in the old Fire House which Marjorie had the vision to establish in that small town. After my family moved to Kettering, Ohio I lost touch with her. But I believe I owed my own vision of an artistic life to her influence. I worked as a video and film editor for 30 years and then turned to painting again. I will always hold her in my heart as a wonderful force of creativity, and a very positive and loving person.
March 12, 2021
Robert Ross
As Associate Priest at St Thomas's Church, Toronto, had the honour of being the officiant at the marriage of Lionel and Marjorie. I was also lucky enough to have had many meals at their various homes in Toronto (one, as I recall, with locomotives right next to the window!) and a number of times in their house near Miners Bay, always with Lionel creating his magic in the kitchen (with lots of wonderful conversation at the same time) and Marjorie charming us all with her wit and southern wisdom while we waited for the 'primo' to arrive at the table! I was also privileged to have Marjorie as a participant in a Christian education course that I mentored (called "Education for Ministry") where she share her many remarkable experiences and her constant faith in the Lord, and would sometimes play her autoharp and sing hymns from her upbringing in the deep south. She was a kind, lovely, and spiritual person--and also a whole lot of fun to be with. She and Lionel would charm any gathering in the parish by their gracious and intelligent presence. I thank God for having known her. My spouse, Glen, and I send sincere condolences and prayers to Lionel and the family. Rest in peace, and rise with Christ in glory, dear Marjorie. Fr Rob Ross
March 01, 2021
Lauren Willis
Marjorie will be so missed, but her spirit lives on in her art and everyone one she loved and inspired.