A familiar face has been missing around Rock Hill schools.
Louis Willis, the district courier for 17 years -- a talker and a joker who made friends with everyone -- had to leave his post a few months ago for health reasons.
The courier is one of those behind-the-scenes jobs that keeps the school district running smoothly. Willis was responsible for picking up the mail, delivering it to each school, transporting inter-office correspondence and, perhaps most importantly, delivering the payroll.
"All them ladies used to be crazy about me," Willis said. "When they'd see me, they knew their money was on time. I always had a joke for 'em. I kept 'em cracked up."
After the better part of 20 years with the district, Willis has some stories to tell.
There was the time his truck, which he swears was in park, started rolling away while he was picking up mail at the U.S. Post Office. Later that day, the horn started blowing while he was inside Castle Heights Middle School.
"I think my truck was haunted," Willis laughed.
And then there was the time he found a large cooter -- that's Southern for snapping turtle -- walking across the road on his way to Rock Hill High School.
He picked it up and put it in the back of his truck. The rest of that day, as he drove around doing his job, he let the cooter startle the pants off of his friends at the schools.
Willis became friends with people everywhere. He knew all the district gossip and always had a minute to chat.
"The thing that we would always get into was he knew I was a Steelers fan and he was a Redskins fan," South Pointe High School Principal Al Leonard said. "We would just give each other a hard time."
Leonard said Willis has a great personality.
"He came in, and he was like family to people in the office," he said.
Willis said he loved being the courier. He liked the freedom the job afforded him and the chance to meet new people. He developed shortcuts to get from one school to the next and prided himself in rarely making delivery mistakes.
District spokeswoman Elaine Baker said Willis always could be relied on to hang a picture, change a light bulb or help out with other odd jobs, such as setting up for meetings.
"He was just someone who was really enjoyable and accommodating," she said. "We've missed him tremendously."
Willis, one of 34 people honored last week during a banquet for retiring employees, decided to throw in the towel after being diagnosed with cancer. He's gone through chemotherapy and radiation, lost his hair and grown it back.
He's working hard on his health and hopes to eventually come out of retirement.
"If I can kick the cancer, 100 percent I'm going back to work," he said. "It may take me a while, but I'll whip it."