She established a dental health program in the 1970s that today benefits students who attend the Gray-New Gloucester school system.

She also made sure that residents of her community who were in need received gifts and food during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.

And in one of her most generous acts, she accompanied an elderly gentleman — Roy Lowe — to a Midwest hospital where he underwent heart bypass surgery.

“In New Gloucester, Coky’s number was the equivalent of 911,” Lowe told her family.

Corinne “Coky” Wills died Thursday after having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years ago.

The longtime New Gloucester resident and registered nurse was 78 years old.

Mrs. Wills was born in New Gloucester on Aug. 9, 1933, the daughter of Millard F. and Della H. Marston.

After graduating from the Maine Medical Center School of Nursing in 1954, she married Peter W. Wills in 1956. They lived in New Gloucester for 55 years and raised three daughters.

Mrs. Wills eventually became the school nurse for Gray-New Gloucester schools, serving in that post for 27 years.

But, her duties as school nurse took her beyond the walls of the schools in her district.

Her daughter Lori Fowler of New Gloucester said her mother was known for taking the initiative to make visits to a sick student’s home to make sure the family had the proper medications or to administer therapies.

“She cared about everyone. That was the thing that people loved about Coky,” her daughter said.

In the 1970s, Mrs. Wills created, on her own initiative, the Swish program. The program still operates today with students in SAD 15 rinsing weekly with fluoride.

“When my mother started the program, a lot of kids had rotting teeth,” Fowler recalled.

But, the dental health program caught on and in 2002 Mrs. Wills was chosen to receive the Jefferson Award for her dedication to health and social services.

Mrs. Wills wrote a thank-you letter to the people who chose her for the honor, which was published in the Portland Press Herald on May 30, 2002.

“Now, more than 30 years later, seeing the children we have helped greeting me with beautiful smiles is very gratifying,” Mrs. Wills wrote.

During the same period, Mrs. Wills became New Gloucester’s health officer, a position she held for 40 years.

She organized immunization clinics, rabies clinics, blood and glaucoma drives, and found financial assistance for those in need through another post she held as the Salvation Army’s town representative.

Fowler said the Salvation Army entrusted her mother with a certain amount of funds each year that she gave to people in need. The Salvation Army left it up to her judgment to determine how the funds should be distributed.

She fulfilled that role for 30 years, until her health started to fail about five years ago.

“She helped hundreds of families over the years,” her daughter said. “My mother cared about her community. She wanted everyone to be warm, well fed and cared for.”

Mrs. Wills spoke in greater detail about her objectives in her 2002 letter to the Press Herald.

“Whether driving an elderly person to an appointment, helping find money for families in need of help with household bills, cooking almost anything for a local organization’s fundraisers, knitting warm clothes, or putting up pickles for my family and friends, the love I’ve gotten in return is worth far more to me than any amount of money I might have earned,” Mrs. Wills wrote.

Her family is asking that memorial donations be made to: Caring Community of Gray-New Gloucester.

Her daughter explained that Caring Community is an extension of the holiday giving program her mother created. Caring Community is run by community volunteers.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]