Cover photo for Michael Dan Willey's Obituary
Michael Dan Willey Profile Photo
1958 Michael 2023

Michael Dan Willey

January 7, 1958 — January 30, 2023

Claremore

 

 

 

Who was Mike ‘Wet’ Willey?

He was an extraordinary son, husband, and father. Many have used the word “legend” when referring to Mike, but he never let all the attention, awards or accolades go to his head. Mike always stayed humble, caring and kind. He was the kind of man who would give you the shirt off his back, build pieces of art to donate to charity, and even share some of his paint secrets.

Born to Myrna (Smith) Willey and Bill Willey on January 7, 1958. David Armes, Mike’s stepfather, married Myrna in 1966 when Mike was 8 years old, and was adopted by David after Mike had just married his wife Cindy. As an adult, Mike asked his dad why he’d never adopted him and changed his name to Armes. David told him it would be a little late to make a name change with his recent marriage, but he would be proud to adopt Mike. To say the least, the judge was a little confused when two grown men were standing in front of him for an adoption.

As a little boy, Mike was curious about how things work and loved to figure things out. When Mike was older, he paid for his first car, a modified 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk with a ford engine, himself. He learned to drive the four-speed stick shift on the floor by driving south on 129th Street east from 11th to 131st street. A few months later, Mike got his driver’s license and was ready to drive by himself. Unbeknownst to his parents, Mike had a speed streak (just like his mother) and would race that Studebaker down the streets of Tulsa, leaving those fancy Mustangs in his dust.

One day, with a big smile on his face, he backed down the steep driveway hitting his neighbors car, a new lime green Ford Torino. Mike’s dad had just told him to be sure it was clear when he was backing up the car. Mike was told he would have to pay for the damages. He went to tell his next-door neighbor Darrell White. Darrell looked at the damages, laughed, and said he could fix it. Darrell’s hobby was painting cars. Mike watched in amazement at how Darrell fixed the dent. From then on Mike was hooked on body and paint.

His lifelong friend Bill Dandridge recalls getting a 1969 pea green Chevelle, and Mike just couldn’t have that; he told Bill it was an ugly color. Mike and Bill made a deal with their neighbor Ray Bender. If they did all the body work, Ray would paint the car. In one weekend, Bill’s Chevelle went from pea green to a white pearl with graphics.

One story that is near legendary among his family and friends is the “Chop Top.” In 1981, Mike put his skills to the test buying a BRAND NEW 1981 Chevy pickup, but it couldn’t be like all those other pickups. He’d not had the pickup 24 hours before it went in for a six-inch haircut. When complete, Mike returned to the dealership and asked if he’d voided the warranty, and the dealership said, “I’m not sure.” Mike and Cindy went on to drive that truck everywhere, thousands and thousands of miles, including their honeymoon to Las Vegas, and to the Nationals in Indianapolis, winning first place in best in body and paint.

The truck went through many iterations, gray, red, red with graphics, turquoise – each time landing in magazines such as “Truckin’” and garnishing dozens of awards; the best award coming after the truck was damaged. When driving to a show in Ark City, Kansas, the front roll pan was damaged, breaking a piece off of the truck. Mike grabbed that chunk of turquoise fiberglass and wrote on it – “I drove it”, and placed it by the truck. That day he won the first-place award. Mike never had any “trailer queens”, and that sentiment has flowed down to his daughter, Misty Willey. The Willey’s drive their hot rods, and believe if it’s on a trailer it’s broke.

Paint and bodywork was just a hobby until the closing of the McDonald Douglas. That is when Mike decided to make a career out of his passion.  Gaining the moniker of ‘Wet’ Willey from his longtime friend David ‘Smokey’ Sanders.  While chatting one day, Smokey said Mike’s paint jobs all looked wet, and with a last name like Willey it was fitting, ‘Wet Willey.’

Mike’s creativity was inspired by his surroundings. He would find something most would consider trash and see another use for it – for example, the bottom of a soda can. He would turn that into a center on a custom wheel he’d created, or a replacement for a missing piece of a Fulton visor. The end of that floater in the toilet, that became a custom base with a little paint and the right accessory.

We’ve talked a bit about Mike’s legendary artwork, but that wasn’t his first love. The order of priorities were God, Family, the dogs then painting. Always humble, always a thinker and not a big talker, Mike was loved and cherished by his friends and family, leaving a lasting memory which will continue to live on in his family, friends and pets. Mike was an only child who married into the Anson family, a family with 13 kids, five honorary brothers who Cindy warned not to run him off, and seven sisters who were always trying to embarrass him with their flirty ways.

 

Here are just a few comments about Mike the family have received:

“His kindness was immeasurable. I am blessed to have called him a friend.”

“Super nice guy! I can always pick out his flames.”

“One of the most talented painters I’ve ever met, one of the nicest guys.”

“Always so humble and kind. I loved hanging with you at the shows. The world lost a great one that can never be replaced.”

His family agrees, he can never be replaced.

Mike is survived by parents, David and Myrna; his wife of 38 years Cindy (who he teased was an alien because of her rare blood type), daughter Misty and Cousin Kyle Smith. We cannot forget his animal children, his beloved Bouvier’s Kona, Ruger and Rocco – shop cat Kitty Cat and his grand-dog Beau. Then there are his longtime friends who became his brothers, Bill Dandridge, Stan ‘The Man’ Hughes, Glen Winn, David ‘Smokey’ Sanders, Mike O’Neil, Ronald Ramsey, Sean Snow and innumerable car show friends who also became part of Mike’s extended family.

 

 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Michael Dan Willey, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Thursday, February 2, 2023

3:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

MMS-Payne Funeral Home and Cremation Services-Claremore

102 W 5th St, Claremore, OK 74017

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Funeral Service

Friday, February 3, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

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