Willis Lee (Doc) Chatham passed peacefully on October 24, 2021 at 86 years. He is preceded in death by his parents, Willis Chester Chatham and Jesse (Seaton) Chatham, and sister Margaret Anne Steele. He was the devoted father of Gary (Linda) Chatham, Steve (Rachel) Chatham, Allan (Reeshemah) Chatham, Deborah (James) Steele, 14 grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren. Dearest great-uncle and friend to many throughout the valley and across the country.
Born July 20, 1935 in Phoenix, AZ, his youth was spent working on his parents’ dairy farm. It was there he developed an affection for animals and knew the veterinary profession would become his life vocation. He attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK where he met Peggy Jean Lee through a blind date. They would marry in 1956 and have two children, Gary and Steve, before his graduation in 1959 with a degree in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). The family then moved to Mesa, AZ where Allan and Deborah were born.
After purchasing a veterinary clinic in with an OSU classmate, the family would depart their Buckeye, AZ home after four years. They moved to Chicago, IL where the area offered a plethora of racetracks. It was there his practice turned to equine and he would hopscotch through Chicagoland with the change of seasons and a vet box mounted to his truck. He later purchased a pharmaceutical company in Kansas City and manufactured the drugs once used in his practice. There were stints in pharmaceutical sales and ownership of another pharmaceutical manufacturing company in St. Joseph, MO.
He would marry Roberta Anderson in 1990 and they would settle in Detroit Lakes, MN after purchasing a veterinary clinic. They eventually tired of the frigid temperatures and moved to Queen Creek in 2000 to be closer to his aging parents. His compassion would endear him to the horse community where he was affectionately known as “Doc.” He was passionate about animals and his profession, continuing to practice even after turning 85 years old.
As a child, he became infatuated with polo and would take up the sport after purchasing Kachina East ranch in Lockport, IL. He was a regular at the Oak Brook club, as well as others throughout Chicago, where he typically played the number four position. There were trips to Rockford, IL, St. Louis, MO, Iowa City, IA, Tulsa, OK, Wichita, KS and others as far away as Mobile, AL, and Brandywine, PA. There were international trips to Argentina and Cameroon. He resurrected the defunct club in Kansas City, and it became a vibrant force. There were charitable benefit matches with the most notable being the Kidney Foundation which sparked a fierce rivalry with the St. Louis club.
He attended clown school and took on a side gig as Seedy the Clown, working in tandem with Bobbie his wife as Sadie, to bring joy to his grandchildren and children of all ages. In 2017 he would take the trip of a lifetime with other veterinarians to Africa to provide veterinary service to large game animals desperate for medical care. He loved sports whether it was baseball, basketball, football, or hockey and if he wasn’t watching the game on TV, he was listening to it on his radio.
Visitation is 6 PM on Thursday, November 4, 2021 at San Tan Mountain View Funeral Home. A Celebration of Life will be held at 11 AM on Friday, November 5, 2021 at Heart Cry Church in Queen Creek, AZ with interment to follow at 1:30 PM at Green Acres Mortuary & Cemetery in Scottsdale, AZ.
For all who are unable to attend the Celebration of Life, the service will be live streamed at https://www.facebook.com/wl.chatham.5.
In memory of his generous spirit, please consider an expression in Lee’s memory with a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association and/or Hospice of the Valley Arizona.