Bolling `Bo' Willse Jr., 24, builder, honor student, ex-Monkton resident


A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike in Monkton, for Bolling Barton "Bo" Willse Jr., who was killed Thursday in a private plane crash near Austin, Colo. He was 24.

Also killed in the crash of the Cessna 182 Skyline were his flying instructor and an unidentified passenger, Federal Aviation Administration officials said.

Mr. Willse was born in Baltimore and raised in Lutherville and Monkton. He was a graduate of the Jemicy School and graduated in 2000 from Gilman School.

While earning a bachelor's degree in sociology with honors from Washington College in 2004, Mr. Willse volunteered as a firefighter with the Chestertown Fire Department.

"When he came down to college he joined up. He was a good and decent kid, and what happened is a tragedy," said Phillip R. Russum, a captain in the Kent County Sheriff's Department and a volunteer firefighter. "Whenever the siren went off - day or night - he was there. He always wanted to learn and be there and helped us out a lot."

"From my point of view, he was quite a rare young man. He came here not fully aware of the potential he had academically and wound up finishing on the dean's list and writing an honors thesis for me," said Steven Cades, chairman of the college's department of sociology and anthropology, who was Mr. Willse's adviser.

"He was a quiet guy who had the respect of his fellow students. I continued to hear from him after he graduated and was crushed by news of his death. He was a young man who would have made great contributions. I am just devastated by his loss."

During his college years, Mr. Willse interned at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Baltimore and after graduation joined Mercantile Mortgage Corp. as a home mortgage consultant.

"Bo was an extremely intelligent, kind and thoughtful person. He was also outgoing, easy to be around and always entertaining," said Jace Stirling, general manager of Winchester Home Loan.

In November, Mr. Willse moved to Telluride, Colo., when he took a job with Glen T. Harcourt, owner of Steeprock Builders, constructing "off-grid houses" whose electrical power is generated by solar or wind power.

Mr. Willse, who started flying lessons in January, was flying with Mr. Harcourt, who was his flying instructor, at the time of the crash.

Mr. Willse had recently told his brother that he was learning to fly because he wanted to be a military pilot and wanted to do rescue work. He had planned to enter the Marines in April, family members said.

"He loved adventure and always barreled headfirst into things while always chiding me for being the worried mother," said Holly Hill Willse of Lutherville. "He recently told me that he'd rather die young doing what he loved, than spending his life doing something he wasn't passionate about."

She described her son as an "avid reader and deep thinker" and a "keen observer and perceptive writer."

Days before his death, he was recommending a book, Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life by John McCain and Marshall Salter, family and friends said.

"He had an unusually beautiful smile, broad shoulders and was always hugging people. He thrived on being with people," his mother said.

Also surviving are his father, Bolling Barton Willse Sr. of Monkton; a brother, Matthew H. Willse, a senior at Brown University in Providence, R.I.; his paternal grandmother, Sally Barton Willse of Ruxton; his maternal grandmother, Betty Hill of Roland Park; and his girlfriend, Lily Deford of Monkton.

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