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Our Opinion: One of a kind

November 21, 2001

No person personified the spirit of the Imperial Valley like Louise Willey.

She loved this Valley — its landscape, its agriculture, its cattle industry, its Old West spirit, and more than anything, its people.

Louise Willey did all she could to make this a better place to live. She helped the Imperial Valley cattle and agricultural industries grow, she was one of the founders of the Cattle Call Rodeo, she fought for our water when the feds were trying to take it and she fought for our water again when our own and others were trying to sell us down the river. Through it all she maintained grace, dignity and warmth.

Louise Willey died Tuesday in her home at age 81, succumbing after a long illness. It was no secret she had been sick, but it was no surprise that she lasted long enough to see another successful Cattle Call Rodeo week go into the annals of Brawley and the Imperial Valley. She didn't leave things undone.


There was so much impressive about Louise Willey. She asserted herself in business in times when most women were still homemakers, and she even did so in the cattle business, where the machismo pours from most cattlemen's veins.

She did so out of necessity. After her first husband died, she took over the family farm and cattle interests and things continued to prosper under her direction. She was an adroit businesswoman who was good with numbers and people.

She also was known as someone who stood up for what was right. Her smile was quick but she did not countenance those who would do harm to her Imperial Valley, the place where she was raised and the place closest to her heart. The ever-so powerful financiers the Bass brothers probably met as tough a foe as they ever encountered in Louise Willey. She fought with similar zeal and even more success 20 years earlier against the 160-acre limitation that the feds tried to put on irrigation of ag land here because it was in a federal reclamation area. And those who didn't do things the right way in regard to Cattle Call met a steadfast foe in Mrs. Willey, who stayed involved with the rodeo and its related events until her last days.

Louise Willey served on countless boards and won countless honors, including a national one as cattlewoman of the year. We simply don't have the space to list everything here she did and won. Suffice to say she did what was right and sometimes got some recognition, but that wasn't the reason she did it.

Mrs. Willey leaves an incomparable legacy in the Imperial Valley, and among the best things she leaves are two fine sons who will see that her interests, work and goodwill for the Valley continue going forward, because they were brought up to love the Valley as she did.

Louise Willey was one of a kind, and we can be thankful she was one of a kind here in the Imperial Valley.

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