PAIGNTON DEVON, England—Graham Willis, a planter who helped Goodyear with its advances in the cultivation and exploitation of natural rubber, died on June 2 after a long series of health problems. Willis is survived by his wife, Barbara, and son, Nigel. He was 79 years old.
He joined Goodyear in 1976 as an administrative assistant in plantation operations. He later became the tire manufacturer's plantations inspector and made regular visits to Goodyear plantations in Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia and the Philippines. Under Willis' direction, Goodyear reduced the immaturity period for Hevea rubber from seven to three years. He formulated and implemented new agricultural techniques and introduced several modern clones, which improved productivity per hectare on Goodyear's seven rubber estates by 30 percent.
He retired from Goodyear in 1996 and relocated back to England from Canton, Ohio. Willis was born June 7, 1934 in Lytham St. Annes, England. From 1952 to 1958, he served in the British Army, rising to the rank of captain in the XX Lancashire Fusiliers.
In 1958, he began his planting career with Harrisons & Crosfield Ltd. in Malaysia. Willis spoke several languages, including English, French, Turkish, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and some Russian and Spanish.
“Graham's passion for details and dry wit made him the most likeable nit-picker I've known,” said Gaylon White, a writer and long-time friend. “It was this single-minded pursuit of perfection that made him such a good planter and a loyal friend.”
Willis was a member of The Incorporated Society of Planters; The International Society of Tropical Foresters; The University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies Alumni Association; The Regimental Association; The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers; and the Singapore Cricket Club. He was also a fellow of The British Institute of Management and a life member of The British Association of Singapore.