Diane Louise Wills

July 11, 1929 - January 10, 2017
Diane Louise Wills

Diane Louise Wills (87) died peacefully at Davis Health Care Center on January 10, 2017 after a courageous and lengthy battle with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.

She was born in Los Angeles, California in 1929. She received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism at UCLA, and later certification in Public Relations at California State University, Long Beach. Her first marriage to the late Norman McLaren ended in divorce after 19 years, as did a brief second marriage to the late Del Smith. Diane retired to Wilmington, North Carolina from a career in display advertising, most recently from the Los Angeles Times, with her third husband (of almost 37 years) John Wills – a retired Los Angeles Fire Inspector. After moving from Long Beach, California they’ve resided in Wilmington over twenty years. Locally, Diane worked as a realtor for Adam & Hilliard Realty, and later Intracoastal Realty.

Mrs. Wills volunteered as a tutor for the Cape Fear Literacy Council and was active in her church, Holy Trinity Episcopal of Hampstead, serving on the vestry, as a member of Daughters of the King, and in various outreach committees. All who met Diane knew she was a lifelong and passionate lover of domestic animals, wildlife, marine mammals, and birds.

Diane was preceded in death by her parents James Donald Crawford and Dorothy Strohmeier Crawford Beck, stepson John M. Wills and three of her half-siblings.

She is survived by her husband John K. Wills, children Heather McLaren of Leland, North Carolina and Holly Swyney (Pat) of Valencia, California; stepsons Mark Wills and Paul Wills (Denise Wills Sar); grandchildren Margaret Ham (Daniel), Mairead Swyney, Sean Swyney, Katie and Ryan Wills; and great-grandson Robert Ham. She is also survived by half-brothers Donald and John Crawford, nieces Kathleen McLaren of Wilmington and Janet McLaren – Smith of Oakdale, California; old LA Times friend James Weinedel of Wilmington; and many other dear friends in California and North Carolina.

The funeral will be held on Saturday, January 14 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Hampstead at 11:00AM. Reverend Pamela Stringer officiating. The family will greet friends following the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Discretionary Fund), the Cape Fear Literacy Council, or any animal-welfare charity of the donor’s choice.

Diane’s family thanks the dedicated and caring workers at both Cornelia Nixon Davis Health Care Center and Lower Cape Fear Hospice.

Please share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Post a Condolence” tab below.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation, 1535 S.41st Street Wilmington, NC 28403. 910.791.9099.


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  • January 12, 2017
    Former Hampstead Auto Center - Terry & Bert Finley, Veena Forstner, & David Lanier says:
    She was one of the sweetest ladies we knew. Our deepest sympathy to the family.

  • January 13, 2017
    Karyn Soltis lit a candle:
    Lit since January 13, 2017 at 1:12:15 PM

  • June 18, 2017
    Mark Wills says:
    Diane was a loving caring wife to my father I will truly miss her she was a wonderful woman and wrote her book Seahorses which I have a signed book I didn't know she had passed till today 06/18/2017 as I was searching Internet and found out I'm praying that my father is doing well and in time he will be by her side

  • June 18, 2017
    Mark Wills says:
    Diane was a wonderful woman and wife to my father she will be missed