By now the word of the passing of Willie E. Agee, affectionately known as Red by his family, has spread throughout the City of Inglewood. Mayor Butts announced the sad and devastating news on Facebook and social media quickly amassed hundreds of pleasant memories of the man known as Mr. Inglewood and countless expressions of deepest sympathy and condolences for his family.
I came to know Willie as a writer for INGLEWOOD TODAY Weekly Newspaper over two years ago. One of my assignments was to cover the weekly Inglewood City Council Meetings and it did not take long for me to identify Willie as the most vocally supportive citizen of Mayor Butts and the leadership he and his council colleagues have ushered into the city.
For a man with a 52-year history in the City of Inglewood, it was prudent that I, and any city observer, take particular notice of what Willie had to say about all of the issues that affected Inglewood residents. Willie was not bashful in speaking his mind on a myriad of topics. He was articulate, thoughtful, and knowledgeable in his remarks and usually chose to speak when individuals chose to criticize the direction and leadership of the mayor and city council.
During the public comments portion of the weekly meetings, which Willie attended with regularity, he always approached the microphone with his standard introduction, ”My name is Willie and I live in the Beautiful city of Inglewood.” His soft-spoken and grand-fatherly introduction was swiftly followed by a polite yet incisive criticism of those who spoke before him that were critical of the council’s direction on matters like rent control, the NFL stadium, the NBA arena, the city’s fiscal position, and a host of others.
At first Willie was skeptical of me as I wrote several articles that were critical of Donald Trump. Willie was a staunch republican and was not shy about letting you know about his political inclination. Over time, he embraced me as a friend when he realized that my reports were not personal but merely newsworthy reports. Without speaking about the differences in our politics we politely avoided any further political discourse and he usually saved me a seat next to his on the front row, adjacent to the citizen’s podium in the council chambers.
Going forward, when the city resumes weekly city council meetings and the threat of COVID-19 has fizzled away, the meetings will not be the same. There will certainly be a feeling of loss on the part of the council members, who honored Willie by naming the Playhouse in Ed Vincent Park the Willie E Agee Playhouse, when his usual seat on the front row is empty.
The citizens who attended the meetings will also most certainly feel the loss of one of the city’s most senior residents who chose to continue his civic involvement by standing up and speaking out in the weekly meetings.
Only those closest to Willie knew about the pain and suffering he was experiencing with cancer. With the COVID-19 limitations on council meetings and other social interaction, only those who were in his inner circle knew that he was being treated in the Veteran’s Hospital. I am sure, if the community at large knew that he was suffering, there would have been no limit to the outpouring of support for him and his family.
The hardest part of losing someone, isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them, always trying to fill the void, the emptiness that s left inside your heart when they go.
Farewell Willie. You will forever be remembered and sorely missed.