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Robert B. Willis

LAKEVILLE — Robert B. Willis, 60, died June 28, 2012, at home, after a brief illness, in the company of his family and friends with his children at his side.

Robert was born on July 26, 1951, in Boston, Mass. He was the son of the late Martha (Borland) Willis and James Willis. Robert grew up in Southwest Harbor, Maine, and attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. He graduated from Haverford College in 1973. He received his masters in photography from Pratt Institute in New York City as well as his masters in architecture from Pratt in1986.

He married Tara Kelly in New York City on Oct. 9, 1988.

Robert worked as an architect for more than 10 years before his passion for cooking convinced him to go to culinary school. After an apprenticeship at Chanterelle in New York City, he opened his first restaurant, Vaux, a French bistro, in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood.

Robert and Tara moved to Lakeville in 2002. They opened the first Café Giulia on Ethan Allen Street in 2008, and in 2011 he moved the restaurant to its current location on Main Street.

Robert was a sailor, photographer, architect, race car driver, chef and most importantly, a terrific father.

Robert lived to witness, with pride, his son Jack graduate from high school earlier this month and to see his daughter McCullough thrive at college. He got to revel in the success of Café Giulia; to enjoy coffee on weekend mornings with a patchwork quilt of friends; to drive full-throttle in his yellow Birkin, and to spend days at Lime Rock racetrack behind the wheel, both as a racer and as an instructor.

Robert accepted his impending death with equanimity and courage.

Robert is survived by his children, McCullough and Jack Kelly-Willis, and his former wife, Tara Kelly, all of Lakeville; his sister, Barbara, and her husband, Mark Campbell, and their children, Rebecca and Ian Campbell, all of Southwest Harbor; his mother-in-law, Therese Kelly; his brothers- and sisters-in-law, Brian Kelly, Maura Kelly, Sarah Kelly and her husband, John Bueche, and their son, Max, Justin Kelly and Ursula Kelly and her partner, Kathy Jewell; his stepmother, Lou Willis, of Pretty Marsh, Maine; and an extended circle of family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to MDI Community Sailing Center, 168 Clark Point Road, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679; or Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service, PO Box 582, Salisbury, CT 06068.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, July 8, at 3 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Salisbury, and in Southwest Harbor on Sunday, July 15.

The Kenny Funeral Home in Sharon has charge of the arrangements.