Tom Willis’s Life Celebration will be held on Friday, November 12, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. at Calvary Church of Albuquerque, 4001 Osuna Rd NE.

The New Mexico restaurant industry has lost a titan with the passing of longtime association board member Tom Willis. Throughout his storied career he touched the lives of so many, from customers to employees and even fellow restaurateurs, as he tirelessly worked not only on his own restaurants but on making our entire community better. His leadership and passion will be missed by all of us at the New Mexico Restaurant Association and his absence will be felt across our entire industry. Rarely are we fortunate to know a person the caliber of Tom and his loss leaves us with a hole that can never be filled.

To memorialize Tom Willis, NMRA is establishing a scholarship in his name to continue his tradition of mentorship and support for everything restaurants.

Many who worked closely with Tom Willis over the years have shared kind words and memories with us, here are what they had to say. If you would like to share a memory or words about his passing please share them in the chat box and we will add them to this page.

“Tom served the association for over 30 years. He was on the executive committee with me in the early ’90s when we hired John Garcia to be the association’s Executive Director. He was selfless, always thinking of what was best for the entire industry. He was the original funder and founding member of the Food Industry Self-Insurance Fund, allowing many restaurants to participate in work comp at a time when it was difficult to find underwriting. He served as President of the organization in 1994 and was Restaurateur of the Year in 1996. He was a stalwart Board Member and took his responsibility seriously, but we had fun. My heart and prayers go out to his restaurant family past and present, his kids and his wife, Christy.” –  Carol Wight

“Tom was a wonderful person! Great supporter of the Association and the restaurant business. Very sad news, prayers to his family.”  – Mike Maxwell 

“Too sad. Tom was a very active in the restaurant industry and a great person. My most profound sympathies for his family.” – Fernando Olea

“So Sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. I worked with Tom for many years with the NMRA, he will definitely be missed. Prayers for the family.” – Chris Bryant

“That is really hard to believe and even more difficult to accept.  Tom was one of the most pleasant and steady members of the board.  I will miss him and so will the entire NM Restaurant Industry. When one says, “Tom will be missed,” you know it’s heartfelt and really true. Condolences to his family.”– Al Lucero

“I’m simply lost for words….Tom’s one of the really good guys who was front and center as we fought some of our industry’s hardest fights over the last three decades…. a steady voice of wisdom….good humored….solid leader and professional  ….a friend who you would expect and look forward to growing old with….this is a very tough loss for all of us….my heartfelt condolences to Christy, his family, and friends as well.” – Tom Hutchinson

“Very bad news about Tom. A great steward of our industry and the strongest handshake I’ve ever had. My condolences to his Family.” – Randy Kenna

“Miguel and I have been grieving since we heard about Tom’s passing away this morning. He was a true and good friend and will be missed more than I can express. He and Christy were always such good examples of generosity and kindness.  We send our best and most loving wishes to Christy and their daughters, and will help in any way we can.” – Kathy Diaz

“In memory of Tom Willis from Monroe’s Restaurants. A faithful Christian, true friend and inspirational restaurateur who will be greatly missed.” –  Matthew Diaz

“I am so sorry to learn of Tom’s passing. He was always so generous with his support and words of wisdom. He will certainly be missed. My deepest condolences and prayers go out to his many friends and family.” – Victoria Sanchez Martinez

“Tom served as the Vice-President of the New Mexico Route 66 Association since the inception of the Association in 1987. He was an ardent supporter of Route 66 culture and his Route 66 Diner was a must visit destination for worldwide Route 66 tourists. As the host of the diner, he was an ambassador for Route 66. The Association Board of Directors will miss his sage advice and his cheerful personalty.” – Johnnie Meier

“As a business and commercial real estate lawyer I was honored to have been able to assist Tom in his business matters from time to time and he was smart, savvy, fair and equitable, a model legal client.  He was also a great human person, friendly, warm, courteous and kind.  They threw away the “mold” when they placed Tom among us.  I will miss him and his spirit and friendship.” Ross B. Perkal, Esq.

“There are no words in the dictionary to explain what Tom meant to the NM Restaurant Association and to FISIF.  Both organizations benefited greatly from his expertise and knowledge. His dedication to both organizations was immeasurable and invaluable. Who we are today is in part, because of Tom.” Florence Jaramillo