Willis’s passing a “personal, national loss” – Robeson Benn
Former Public Infrastructure Minister Robeson Benn on Tuesday lamented Walter Willis’s death as a personal and national loss for Guyana, while stating that he was an engineer that any minister could have relied on.
“I have had a very professional arrangement with Walter and I viewed him as one of our more extraordinary engineers that was passionate about the engineering practice,” he said, adding that he was someone he could “always count on, any day or night” to help.
He stated that Willis was always willing and ready to work. Benn indicated that Willis’s ideas were highly valued and he had relied on his advice even prior to him becoming a minister.
Willis passed away on Monday evening at the St Joseph Mercy Hospital. He was admitted to the hospital on Saturday, July 9, 2016 following a reported heart attack and was placed on life-support on Monday, July 11, 2016.
In an interview with Guyana Times, his son, Christopher, stated that he was in Canada, face timing his father on Friday when he mentioned having stomach pains. He said his father indicated that he was scheduled to visit the doctor on Monday, but he would more than likely have to go on Saturday. The younger Willis said on Saturday he received the news that his father was hospitalised, as the doctors had found several ulcers in his stomach and had to operate to get the blood out of his stomach.
But, by Sunday night, he said his father’s condition took a turn for the worst: his mom called and informed him that his dad’s kidneys were failing.
The younger Willis stated that his father was a very strong man and a man of principle. “He would always be on the side of principles and righteousness… My father would go market with my mom and all the beggars would crowd him and he would give them money…to the point where my mom had to stop taking him to market because he would give all the money away. He never held a grudge or malice. He loved his profession…he loved what he did.”
“I’m very proud to have him as my father and if I can be half the man he was, I would be a very great person,” he added.
Reports have circulated that Willis would not have been in a coma if the wrong medication was not administered to him. Guyana Times was informed by his relatives that Willis went to the hospital complaining of chest pain and was given insulin.
The Hospital in confirming Willis’s death had said that it “has embarked on an investigation to ensure that all clinical guidelines were adhered to in keeping with Standard Operating Procedures”.
The Public Infrastructure Ministry had issued a statement of condolences to his family, expressing its “deepest regret”.
Willis was born on July 23, 1949 and was employed with the Ministry for 17 years. Upon his commencement of service on May 3, 1999, Willis served as the Technical Adviser for Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Anthony Xavier, under the Public Works and Communication Ministry.
He also served as Technical Adviser to Minister Harry Narine Nawbatt and Minister Robeson Benn before working alongside Minister Patterson from May 2015.
Willis worked on several major development projects in Guyana, including the construction of the National Stadium.
An autopsy is expected to be performed on Wednesday to determine the cause of death.