Newfoundland and Labrador has lost one of its favourite sons. A. Frank Willis, formerly of Dover, passed away Sunday afternoon in Edmonton, Alta. after a short battle with cancer.
A famous and colourful figure on the Newfoundland/folk music scene since the 1970s, Willis was loved and respected by many fans all over the world.
Members of the Willis family told family friend Frank Blackwood of A. Frank’s passing on Sunday, he said.
He said the news saddened him greatly.
“Just to watch the reaction of the people themselves who were enjoying his music, it seemed like the more they enjoyed his music the better he played,” said Blackwood.
The men grew up in neighbouring communities and had known each other their whole lives.
“A person can’t have any better memories of A. Frank Willis than to think about how he was. He was a real down-to-earth guy. I never thought when we were kids someday I would be paying a tribute to him, you know, ”said Blackwood.
Affectionately known as the “One-Man Band from Newfoundland,” Willis could play up to six instruments himself during a single song.
Willis toured extensively until late last year when he was diagnosed with cancer.
As news of his passing started to trickle out Sunday, a Facebook fan-page dedicated to Willis started to fill with condolences.
Maria Collins wrote, “my deepest condolences to the family ... Frank was an amazing man and his music will live on through us.”
Nora Ford said, “very sad, what a great loss, he was an icon in his own right. Never to be forgotten and missed forever, will be sadly missed. Our deepest condolences to his family. RIP A. Frank Willis.”
“Terrible news, a Newfoundland legend, and will indeed be missed and very fondly remembered. All the best to the family. Sad sad day,” said Alasdair Veitch.
Willis is survived by many family and friends, some of whom still live in Newfoundland and Labrador.