Obituary: Willy Kollmeyer
October 12, 1938 – September 9, 2021
Willy Kollmeyer was born and raised in Fresno, California, the eldest child of Willie and Frieda Kollmeyer. He graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School and then studied chemistry at Fresno State, where he met Barbara Bitting. After graduating from Fresno State, the young couple moved to Los Angeles, where they got married. Willy earned a PhD in chemistry at UCLA, while Barbara taught primary school in Redondo Beach.
Willy had a long, successful career as a research scientist. His first job took him and Barbara to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he worked for 3M and where their first child, Christopher, was born. After a few years in Minnesota, they moved back to California to be closer to family. Willy took a job at Shell Biological Sciences Research Center in Salida. They settled down in nearby Modesto and had two more children, Matthew and Stephanie. Willy enjoyed playing tennis and basketball and spent lots of time fishing and backpacking with friends and family in the Sierra mountains for which he had an enduring love. During their years in Modesto and at Shell, Willy and his family formed many cherished lifelong friendships.
In 1986, DuPont bought Shell’s Salida research facility. Willy and his family, along with many other Modesto Shell families, moved to Delaware, where DuPont was based. The Shell “expatriates” were a tight-knit bunch, gathering regularly for social events and holiday meals filled with smiles, storytelling, and laughter.
Upon his retirement, Willy and Barbara returned to California one more time, settling into a home they had built on Banner Mountain in Nevada City. In Nevada City, Willy became involved with civic organizations such as Save Our Historic Canals and the Banner Mountain Homeowners Association. He spent many afternoons fishing Rollins Reservoir and Scotts Flat Lake. He joined the California Native Plant Society. In his later years, he often spent long mornings lingering over breakfast and coffee, reading the newspaper, and watching the animals stroll in and out of view through the sliding glass door. He especially loved the deer, to see the spotted fawns in spring and the antlered bucks in fall.
Willy was intelligent and principled. He had a warm soul and a generous spirit. He loved science and nature and to talk and share stories. He provided endless wisdom and guidance to his family across a range of subjects. He was an excellent cook who after retirement channeled his proclivity for experimentation into countless delicious meals. He valued honesty, hard work, and fairness. Those who knew and loved him will miss him deeply for many years to come.
Willy passed away on September 9 from complications arising from congestive heart failure and a collapsed lung. He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara, who died in 2016. He is survived by his two siblings, Wilma of Fairfield and Karl of Willows; his son Christopher, his wife Cammy, and their children Quinn and Clare of Aberdeen, Scotland; his son Matthew of Nevada City; and his daughter Stephanie Paddack, her husband Todd, and their children Owen and Leo of Bend, Oregon.
His children thank the family members, friends, and neighbors whose kindness and compassion have made their grief bearable. A celebration of life will be held in the spring of 2022 in Nevada City.
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