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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Wilda Billings

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Former Kennett resident Wilda Mae Legan Billings died of lung cancer on May 4, 2004. She was 77 years old and a resident of The Park at Olympia Fields, Ill., at the time of her death. Wilda Mae, as she was known to family and friends, was born in Malden, Mo. on July 28, 1926 to Edith Luranda Blackburn and John Marcus Legan, long-time owners of The Palace Cafe in Kennett. She attended Kennett Public Schools, and in May of 1944 graduated from Kennett High School. She attended Southeast Missouri State College for a term, and on January 14, 1945, she married William Howard "Bill" Billings, son of Leora Francis Sapp and James Vincil Billings. On the last day of 1945 Wilda gave birth to her first child, Diana Lyn. William Howard III would follow in 1949, and Ward Hamilton in 1955.

Wilda Mae's life in Kennett was briefly interrupted in 1951-1952 when she moved to Columbia, Mo., to join Bill at the University of Missouri's School of Law. It was there Wilda and Bill met and became friends with future Governor of Missouri Warren E. Hearnes. This friendship would impact the remainder of Wilda and Bill's lives. Upon Bill's graduation they returned to Kennett where they would remain until 1972. It was during this twenty year period Wilda Mae made many friendships she cherished and maintained through letters, telephone calls and visits whenever possible.

Wilda Mae Billings was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Kennett, taught Sunday School and was an occasional organist. She was a Cub Scout Den leader, and member of the PEO, Music Club and National Music Society. She was a life-long student of piano and gave private lessons to many young women and men. She was especially interested in the history and technique of ragtime, and continued to play piano for personal enjoyment and community functions at The Park until shortly before her death.

Wilda Mae was preceded in death by her parents and her husband, Bill. She is survived by her brother, John Keith Legan and sister-in-law, Marilyn Legan, of Dyersburg, Tenn.; three children, Diana Lyn Fulk and son-in-law, Gary Fulk, of Overland Park, Ks., William Howard Billings III and daughter-in-law, Marianne Billings, of Flossmoor, Ill. and Ward Hamilton Billings and daughter-in-law, Jo Billings, of Kennett and six grandchildren. She was a gentle woman who never tired of learning or sharing with others what she had learned. Though she will be missed, her friends and family wish her "God speed, Wilda Mae."

The private graveside service will be held for family at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 19, 2004, followed by open visitation with the family from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church of Kennett.

Memorials may be made to the First United Methodist Church Christian Life Center or the American Cancer Society.