He was a bishop at his church, a friend to dozens, known to many as "The Broom Man." Livingston Wills was 91 when he passed away Friday, but his memory will live on in the countless lives he touched.
Bishop Wills passed away at the St. Joseph Villa and Rehabilitation Home where he spent the last 5 months of his life. If you spent time in Omaha there's a good chance you might recognize him and a really good chance he would’ve recognized you.
"He knew their names, he'd remember their voice so if he'd seen you a couple times, if you said good morning to him, he'd say how are you, he would always want to know how are you and could I sell you a broom,” says Rita Zitek, who met Wills nearly 50 years ago when he showed up at her door one snowy night.
"Sorry to bother you miss, but would you like to buy a broom? I said Revered Wills, I know you and he said I don't you, but I'm selling brooms and I said why don't you come on in and have a cup of coffee?”
Born blind, Wills sold brooms door to door to make a living, learning to make them, according to Zitek, at a broom factory as a young man. "He was just such a social human being, he loved to sing, he loved to play the piano, he just loved people."
And people loved him. Youngblood’s Barbers bought brooms from Wills for over 40 years. "It didn't matter whether it was cold, sub-zero, whatever, he was always out with them brooms,” says Clyde “Youngblood” Deshazer.
Pastor Cedric Perkins at Pilgrim Baptist Church met Wills five years ago at the Interdenominational Ministry Alliance. "He would lean over and say little things in your ear, whisper things and would start laughing.”
He had a personality that stood out even more than his signature trade. "People are nice to me, I put my trust in God, he'll take care of you," the Rev. Wills once said.