Billie Marie Whitsitt, born Willie Marie Nestor on October 23, 1921, died peacefully in her sleep on October 4, 2015, 19 days shy of her 94th birthday. She was born in Huntington, West Virginia, rather than in the small coal mining town of Wolfpit, Kentucky, where her parents and brothers were living, due to the need for a hospital birth. Billie was the only daughter of Ernest Fuget Nestor and Mary Etta (Goad) Nestor. During her childhood the family moved often, living in multiple coal mining towns in eastern Kentucky and western West Virginia. She always loved the area and spoke of it with great fondness, especially during the last few years of her life.
Billie took a year off after high school before attending Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where she met a Navy man, Robert (Bob) Edgin Whitsitt, who would become her husband of 30 years. Billie and Bob graduated from Berea College, she with a BA in History, he in pre-med. After they married on June 4, 1945, they moved often, sometimes living with his parents, sometimes with hers, and sometimes in tiny apartments in the cities where he attended medical school and Billie briefly attended nurses' training. When her husband completed his medical training, they bought a small home in Loves Park, Illinois, not far from his clinic. Soon after, the Navy sent him to Okinawa, Japan. Billie and their two sons later joined him for his last nine months of service there. A year after the family returned to Loves Park, they moved to their new home in Rockford, close to Swedish American Hospital where Bob was on the staff. He went back to practicing medicine in Loves Park while Billie took care of their home and then three children.
In her mid-40's, Billie became a first grade teacher at William Dennis Grade School in Rockford, where she taught for the next 20 years. She was totally dedicated to the children she taught and gave much of her time and energy to them. She was innovative in her teaching methods, working hard to reach every student she had. While there, she started a volunteer program that involved teaching several of the parents to read. When she started her teaching career, she also started attending Rockford College, where she earned a Master's Degree in Education. She had been allowed to teach without a teaching certificate because at the time there was a great shortage of teachers.
When Billie retired, she continued working with children, volunteering at a local elementary school for several more years. She also spent much time with her grandchildren, whom she thoroughly enjoyed. She took classes at Rock Valley College each semester, always interested in a variety of subjects. She loved learning and could not imagine anyone did not.
During her time in Rockford, Billie was very involved with the Rockford Unitarian Church (now Unitarian Universalist), the League of Women Voters, PTA at Jackson Elementary School, leading a Brownie troop, and volunteering her time for various causes. A favorite leisure activity was playing bridge with their close friends, Anne and Winfield Foster. She enjoyed attending theater productions, hiking, nature, doing word puzzles of all kinds, spending time with children, teaching, and learning about everything, history, anthropology, and education in particular. A favorite family event was a week each summer at George Williams College Camp on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. She attended this UU family church camp off and on for many years. She continued the tradition for several years after she retired, at a spin off camp, Bayside UU Family Camp. Spending holidays with friends was another favorite tradition for her family. After the meal, everyone joined in, playing charades, the dictionary game, perhaps singing, and great conversation. She particularly enjoyed reading and writing, authoring several poems and short stories based on her childhood experiences. She was strongly encouraged to publish these works, but never pursued it.
In 2010, she moved to the Madison, Wisconsin, area to be closer to her daughter who helped care for her. By that time she had been diagnosed with Ischemic Dementia. She gradually declined cognitively, but remained quite strong physically. She was generally very cheerful, often commenting on how much she enjoyed the staff and other residents where she lived, first in an assisted living facility in Fitchburg, then a memory care unit in Monona, where she died.
Billie is survived by her children, Robert (Bob) E. Whitsitt, II (Lana Bryan) of Monterey, California, Richard A. Whitsitt (Jan) of Rockford, Illinois, and Jill M. DeLisle (Kenneth) of Madison, Wisconsin. Eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren survive her as well. The grandchildren are Britt Schanel (Lisa Talarico) of Portland, Oregon, Dae Umburger (Arin) of Milwaukie, Oregon, Michael Whitsitt (Vicki) of Springfield, Missouri, Alan Whitsitt (Jacki) of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Jacqueline Dover (Jason) of Anna, Illinois, Kimberly Burkhart (Clinton) of Rockford, Illinois, Lia DeLisle of Springfield, Missouri, and Kim DeLisle of Madison, Wisconsin. Her brother, Paul Nestor of North Carolina will be 97 in January 2016. Two days before her death she was so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Paul on the phone. There remain several nieces and nephews, as well as grandnieces and grandnephews.
Billie was preceded in death by her parents, her former husband, her third child, Anne Linda, who died within days of her birth, her brother Ernest Nestor, her sisters-in-law Dorothy (Ernest) Nestor and Janet (Paul) Nestor, her nephew, Ronnie Nestor, and her grandniece, Kelly Nestor.
Billie lived a long and amazing life. She was kind and generous to everyone, believing the most irritating people needed the most acceptance. She was quiet and reserved with a subtle sense of humor with which she continued to delight her daughter and the staff of Heritage Monona Memory Care Unit H-10 until shortly before her death.
Billie was cremated in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 10, 2015. The celebration of her life will be in Rockford, Illinois, on November 22, 2015, at the Rockford Unitarian Universalist Church located at 4848 Turner Street in Rockford, Illinois 61107, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Rockford Unitarian Universalist Church. Billie believed supporting her church financially was of utmost importance because of all it gives to so many people both within and outside the congregation. With her friend Anne Foster, at their annual Halloween birthday party, they requested donations for the food pantry instead of personal gifts. Please donate to your local food pantry to continue their legacy. To help celebrate Billie's life, please share stories about her with her children or at informedchoicefunerals.com (find her listed under the obituary section), or even better, come prepared to share them yourself.