In Memoriam: Chilly Willis (Henyan)

A lover of water from birth, Chilly was born on May 25, 2001 in Laurel, Maryland to Ashley Henyan and Kimberly (Panzer) Harris. Ashley and Kimberly were college best friends and roommates – who happened to live on Chillum Rd. (yes, they thought it was hilarious, too). In fact, the street’s name was so monumental, it was the sole contributing factor to Chilly’s name!

Before his first birthday, Chilly was already on the move – off to spend almost two years in the only home he would ever know with a large, fenced-in back yard. There, in Beltsville, MD, he lived with his mom Ashley and his two roommates: Denise Reitan and Mark Murray. He spent his days waiting for UPS, FedEx and USPS to arrive and his nights watching American Idol and Will and Grace with his childhood best friend, Steve Vigilante.

Chilly, age 1, with snorkel.

With a mother who refused to settle, Chilly was soon on the move again, this time to New York state, for a six-month stay with his soon to be father, Don DeLeva. His time in New York was temporary, as Ashley and Don had plans to move to South Florida – where they ended up putting down roots right across the street from beach. Now, Chilly had his very own pool!

Often, when one thinks of South Florida, especially a condo by the beach, retired couples with walkers and early-bird-specials come to mind. This was not the case for Chilly. He enjoyed hosting birthday and holiday get togethers at his pool – joining guests like Heidi Davis, Brooke Franzman and Brandon Eller for as much swimming and drinks as his little heart desired. He also braved many dangerous hurricanes, like Hurricane Katrina. These were the days of fun and friends and Chilly still holds the record for the only dog to visit every bar on Duval Street in Key West—in a single night!

After a few years in Los Angeles, Chilly had perfected the perfect “head-shot pose!”

By 2008, Chilly found himself on a plane to Los Angeles, with his now single mom. Over their more than nine years in LA, Chilly lived like a star! His tenth birthday party was held at the Downtown Standard Hotel—with live entertainment courtesy of Jason Lee Bruns and John Twiford (and of course, a roof-top pool!) And, when he wasn’t shopping in Beverly Hills, he often hiked in the canyons, right alongside A-listers and their furry friends.  In accordance with living his best LA-life, weekend trips to Las Vegas became not only common, but a necessity!

With his mom making a career change and heading to graduate school, Chilly went bravely on his own, back to Maryland – to Annapolis this time – to live with his loving Aunt Nickole, Uncle Jason and canine cousins, Austin and London Mitchell. With his interim-family, Chilly enjoyed frequent getaways to his grandparents’ home on Keuka Lake. There, he spent warm summer days and star-filled nights wine-tasting, boating and jumping in the lake to chase local ducks.

In July 2018, after spending the previous two years back with Ashley in California, Chilly moved to Atlanta.

Chilly, age 17, at his home in Atlanta, GA.

Georgia would be his fifth and final state of residence.

Chilly passed away on November 15, 2018 at the People’s Pets Veterinary Hospital – in Tucker, GA.  He was 17.5 years old.

He was a frequent traveler (first-class, all the way), a lover of drive-thru restaurants, a fanatic for carrots, a talented acrobat and for his entire life, he strived to speak English words like “pork-chop,” “spaghetti,” and “Mom!”

Before his death, he had already inspired a Children’s book series, Chilly and London Go to School, a short-animated film, Chilly Harris: Red Cross Volunteer, and the non-fiction, published piece (The Penmen Press, 2017), “My Editing Role Model.”

Chilly is survived by two canine cousins, London Mitchell and Mondi Henyan and upon his passing, countless friends and family in Africa, South American and the Continental U.S. had to be notified, including: Pete Henyan, Abi Henyan, Penny Henyan, Nnana Mangadi, Athena Henyan, Jojo Henyan, Doug Henyan, Joann Henyan, Peg Webb, Todd Webb, Lindsay Webb, Mike Webb, Jamie Meteer, Deepak Ramapriyan, Kevin Burke, Amber Weaver, John Carter, Phillip Raya, Jen Phillips and Trey Harris.

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