She’s gone fishin’ —
She was something special to everyone she met...friend, fishing buddy, cribbage opponent, confidant, niece, granddaughter, aunt, daughter, and sister, but she was always our Claire-Bear. Claire Elizabeth Willis was called home on Sept. 9, 2017 at her lakeside cabin in Whitefish. Born in 1982, Claire entered this world the same way she left it, strong. Raised in Billings, MT, she was the youngest of the Willis family. In 2001, she graduated from Billings Central Catholic High School, moving then to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Gonzaga University in 2005 with a bachelor’s of arts degree in literature. She loved everything from violin lessons to softball to reading a great book to the friendships she formed...but she LOVED fishing. After some time in Spokane, Seattle and Oneonta, NY, she decided that Montana was to be her home again and settled in Missoula. Whether it was fishing, hiking, road trips, brewery patios, or family gatherings, no matter the occasion, if Claire was going to be there, you felt drawn to be there as well. She quickly brought out the best in anyone she met; her quick wit and infectious laugh made it worth it.
Claire is preceded in death by her father Fred Willis, sister Seely Grace, brother John Richard, grandfather Jack, grandmother Nancy, and uncle Gordon Willis.
She is survived by her mother, Jenanne Solberg, her two brothers, Austin (Alycia) and Scottie (Sarah), grandparents, Dick and Jane Solberg, niece Audrey and nephew Andrew. She is also survived by a family who provided the absolute best care that anyone could ask for: Chris and Sheryl Solberg (Janssen, Dru, Seely) Sannan Solberg and Angela Zielinski (Nathaniel, Jocelyn, Emily, Morgan) Tina and Bill Corwin (Kristin, Kelly, Taylor, Jamie, Ben, Katie). Our family stood strong, surrounded Claire and each other with love and support, and will maintain the positive message that Claire lived by. Check out her recipe for living a full life:
-You get the family you got. Love them hard, love them long.
-Cook, use good ingredients, and share those meals with friends.
-Choose good friends and make them your tribe forever.
-Cheer for your teams, winning or losing.
-Cast a wide net with your interests.
-Drink good beer!
-Even silly routines count; cultivate comforting ones.
Scottie is right, she is gone fishin’.
In lieu of flowers, please send any condolences or memorials in her name to either of the following, which Claire chose, or to the organization of your choice. She has fond memories of Montana Music Institute, Red Lodge Music Festival, Billings Central Catholic High School, and Gonzaga University. Camp Marshall, c/o Claire’s Campers, PO Box 2020, Helena, MT 59624 or https://diomontana.com/donations/ and Life Goes On Scholarship, c/o Whitefish Education Foundation, PO Box 1417, Whitefish, MT 59937.
Austin Funeral Home in Whitefish is caring for Claire’s family.