Ward Room
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Surviving Willis Sibling Envisions 'Cordial Conversation' With George Ryan

The disgraced ex-Illinois governor has yet to reach out to the family

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Surviving Willis Sibling Envisions 'Cordial Conversation' With George Ryan

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan served prison time on corruption charges.

Toby Willis, who lost six siblings in a tragic 1994 car accident that spurred a corruption case indicting George Ryan, says his family has yet to hear from the former Illinois governor.

"If we did, we'd be very cordial and we would probably all cry, maybe for a little different reasons, all cry over the same tragedy," Willis tells Chicago Sun-Times. "I think my parents would sit down and have lunch with George Ryan and have a very cordial conversation, at least from my parents' perspective. That may surprise a lot of people, but you know we're called to forgive and move on."

At the same time, Willis doesn't expect Ryan to reach out. The governor officially became a free man last Wednesday when his probation expired. He said that while he prays for the children daily, he feels no responsibility for their deaths.

"It was a terrible, heartbreaking thing to have happened to the Willis family," declared Ryan in the Sun-Times. "As the parents of six children, my wife Lura Lynn and I could never comprehend the grief and heartache the Willis’s endured."

Ryan, 80, was released from federal prison in July 2013 after serving five years for corruption as a result of an investigation triggered by the Wisconsin highway crash that killed five sons and one daughter of Scott and Janet Willis, the sole survivors. The nightmarish accident dominated Ryan's trial as the truck driver who caused it had received a license through a bribe from a staffer in Ryan's office when he was Secretary of State.

"There’s no way to hide that this is the way life is," said 44-year-old Toby Willis, father of 12, who keeps pictures of his late siblings in his Nashville-based home. "That bad things happen and we want them to give them an accurate picture of how the world really is. We don’t shelter them.”

Willis' kids, meanwhile, are rising stars in the country music world. They're among the competitiors on this season of NBC's "America's Got Talent" and have also starred in their own reality series on the Great American Country channel.

Here's the Von Trapp-esque "Willis Clan" making their "Got Talent" debut:

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