Philip K. Willsie

EAST BERNE — Philip K. Willsie skillfully moved earth for a living, and moved heaven and earth for his family. He died on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. He was 84.

He was born in Albany on Dec. 8, 1936 to the late Horace B. and Hazel C. (née Milner) Willsie. He grew up on his family’s dairy farm in East Berne. He lived his whole life at the family homestead and took great pride in caring for his land. 

“His father passed away in his teenage years. He continued to keep the land up, to keep it going,” said his daughter, Diana Rothaupt.

The acreage has a big farmhouse and five barns. “Through the years, he sold property so we have a few neighbors,” said his daughter.

After he sold the cattle and wasn’t dairy farming anymore, Mr. Willsie worked with his father-in-law, doing excavating. “He was a really good excavator and a really good heavy-machine operator and everybody always said what a good job he did,” said his daughter.

When his daughter was a little girl, Mr. Willsie taught her about safety and to use common sense, she said. She liked to walk on the trails in the woods. “He taught me not to go on other people’s property where there might be animal traps that could hurt me,” she said.

“He was big into just using your head, using common sense. He also taught you to take care of your car,” she said.

Mr. Willsie spent a lot of time with his grandson, who grew up in Schenectady.

“My son spent weekends in East Berne,” said Ms. Rothaupt. “He introduced my son to a little of everything in the country. A neighbor had a horse, so he had him ride a horse. He had him in the dump truck. He had him in the backhoe. He had him on the tractor …

“And one of my dad’s friends took him fishing. My father was always happy to get him out of the city to be able to play outside and experience all the things he did in the country.”

Ms. Rothaupt concluded of her father, “He was quiet, but he would tell you what he thought if he was asked. He was very well aware of everything around him in the town.”

Mr. Willsie kept up to date by reading the local newspaper. “Every week, I brought him The Altamont Enterprise,” said Ms. Rothaupt. “When we had the viewing, that week I got The Altamont Enterprise … That’s in the casket with him along with the 2021 Farmers’ Almanac that I just gave him.”


Philip K. Willsie is survived by his beloved wife, Carolyn; his daughter, Diana Rothaupt and her husband, Paul; his grandson, Rome Thrasher, and his wife, Brie; and his great-granddaughter, Malani Thrasher. 

Funeral services will be private due to COVID-19. 

Memorial messages may be left at

To plant a tree in memory of Philip Willsie, please visit Tribute Store.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer


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