If life is a song worth singing, then every breath taken should exude the melody, the harmony, and the rhapsody of Jessie Mae Kimble Willis affectionately known to the world as “Safir”. She transitioned peacefully on Friday, September 3, 2021. She was 65. Within six amazing decades, this incredible woman found a way to leave an indelible mark on the life of every person she touched.
The unforgettable moment in time was November 20, 1955; it was then that Safir made her grand entrance into the world. She was born in Camden, Arkansas she was the beloved daughter of Almon Smith and Lahr Ette Kimble. Family played a key role in the development and shaping of her life. Coming from humble beginnings, she was determined to provide a better life for herself.
She was a 1975 graduate of Camden High School and by far she was one of the most talented and popular students. It was at Camden High School where she met the love of her life Thomas Ray Willis and their daughter La’ Tyra was born. It was in a Home Economics class that she discovered one of her greatest talents which was sewing. She made an outfit and from that day forward she made her clothes. Over the years her skills developed and she rightfully became one of the most sought after and talented seamstresses in Camden.
Safir and T Ray later married and were blessed with two more children, Ka’Talyia and Ta’Ki. Although their marriage would end, they remained great friends. Her children were her world and she was their biggest supporter, fan, and cheerleader; always encouraging them to be the best and live life without limits.
Safir was an independent woman and mother. She began to forge her career within the business world while raising her three children providing for them well beyond the necessities of life. As a member of St. James AME Church, she remained dedicated to her Christian beliefs and brought up her children also knowing and loving the Lord.
She joined the nursing staff and worked as an LPN at the Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden. She also worked at BEI, Arquest, and Georgia Pacific. As an entrepreneur, she successfully owned several small businesses that did big business. Additionally, she laid the groundwork for her children and grandchildren so that they would obtain a financially secure future. She was a risk-taker and a go-getter. She lived life to the fullest and always encouraged others to do the same. She inspired many and was always the life of the party. She made life-long friends wherever she went.
Through the success of her life, she maintained close ties to her family and loved ones and enthusiastically enjoyed entertaining with them at parties and get-togethers, fish fry’s, and bar-b-ques. She was always down for a cruise, concert, and especially a Grambling Football game. She was a soul food cooking woman who loved R&B, Slow Jams, Blues, and at times music by Lil Boosie. One of her favorite artists was TK Soul, they were personal friends and she once appeared in one of his music videos.
Safir’s energetic personality, her giving nature, and her pursuit for the next best thing was a magnet for those who wanted her energy to rub off on them. She was widely known for her quick wit and charm. Always impeccably dressed she matched her outfit, shoes, purse, and jewelry; even down to the perfect hairstyle. She was a fashionista in her rights and did things “her way.”
However, her zest for life and adventure led her and her children to open the “RIGHT Spot” a popular club and lounge in Camden. She later re-opened “Flippin’ Something Different” a big bright red food truck that specialized in wings and hamburgers. With a youthful spirit, she continued to work and play with the exuberance of a teenager, all while continuing to build a lasting legacy of love.
A true servant in every aspect of the word Safir did not mind lending her time, talent, and treasures to many people, causes, and events. Of all the notable titles and respected positions, she was a super mother, sweet grandmother, proud aunt, and a true friend.
Safir was a true jewel and will be missed by many. She was preceded in passing by her parents; and her beloved daughter, Ka’Talyia A’Tedra Willis who passed into the Lords’ embrace on Thursday, August 5, 2021.
Safir leaves an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of many people who learned from her, aspired to greater positions because of her, and those who were encouraged by her. A lifetime of love and memories will be felt by her children: La’ Tyra Willis of Dallas, TX and Ta’Ki Willis of Camden, AR; her grandsons, Khyri Hall, Takylan Willis, and Keystin Willis all of Camden, AR. She also leaves her sisters, Sandra (Charles) Goodwin of Camden, AR, a sister who preceded her in death, Mary Catherine Fields; her brothers, Efrem Neal of Little Rock and James Ray Neal of Camden, AR and a brother who preceded her in death McCalvin Neal; her extended sisters and brothers, Deseree Jenkins of Camden, AR, Tarlisa Dumas of Camden, AR, Barbara (Clem) Canada of Conway, AR; and Audrey Anette Barnes of Conway, AR; Bobby (Tongia) Gaston of Camden, AR, Jerry (Jessie) Gaston of Camden, AR, Ronnie (Rachel) Gaston of Camden, AR, Stanley Gaston of Camden, AR and John Gaston who preceded her in death, as well as, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, numerous friends, and the Right Spot family.
Public visitation will be from noon until 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 17, 2021, at True Word South, 251 Madison Ave NE, Camden. A celebration of her life will be shared at noon on Saturday, September 18, 2021, at Harmony Grove School Arena with Bishop Jacovis Davis, the eulogist. Interment will be at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 19, 2021, at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Homer, Louisiana.