In 1951, Mary Lou and Don Willis were vacationing at a resort on Woman Lake. They decided to look around the Hackensack Area for other places to stay. It was a beautiful summer day when they discovered Ten Mile Lake. They walked to the water’s edge near the Jensen cabin and decided that this was the lake on which they wanted to vacation. Later and for several summers they stayed at Fred and Macie’s Resort, on the North Shore. The family has great memories from those days: sailing, skiing, fishing, and walking to the Des Moines Store on the North Shore. Joint vacations were shared with other Des Moines families, the Rutledge Schropps, and the Glen Nielsens. All three families eventually purchased property on Ten Mile Lake.
The Willises purchased a cabin in 1967 from the Murphy family who had owned it for two years. It was built by Don Fleisher and located next door to Jake and Alice Fleisher. (Incidentally, Fred Zweifel, of Fred and Macie’s Resort, had built the Fleisher cabin.) Ted, Sr. and Ruth Mellby of “Mellby’s Green Acres Resort” were located to the west of the new cabin, and were great summer neighbors. The Willis family, consisting of Don and Mary Lou, Jeffrey (17), Nancy (15), and Joe (11), moved into their new summer home in October, 1967, and have summered on the South Shore of Ten Mile Lake ever since. Many fond memories are of sailing the C-Boat, going to the drive-in movie theater on Highway #371, picnicking on Sandy Beach, and riding bikes to Woock’s Store on the South Shore.
Mary Lou passed away in the fall of 1995. Don married Carol Hewitt in the spring of 2001. Don has been active in the Ten Mile lake Association, and has served on various committees throughout the years. He is now serving as President. Meanwhile, a third generation of Willises is discovering the Lake and its culture. The family likes to quote Stan Skaug, who said “The Lake brings the people and the people bring the people back.” They also have a doormat that borrows from The Prairie Home Companion: