Mary Jean (Williamson) Gillis

January 11, 1914 ~ June 27, 2018 (age 104)
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Mary Jean Burns Williamson was born in DeSmet, Idaho on January 11, 1914 to Winfield Howard and Helene Jessie (MacKay) Williamson.

They lived for a certain number of years on a claim her grandfather, Dr.W.S. Williamson had received from the U.S. Government for service in the Medical Corps during the Civil War. Howard had a huge log house built and Jean can remember many bedrooms. In those days people did not stay a few days due to the arduous journey. It was more like three to four weeks. Family and friends from Galesburg, Illinois and vicinity were often “on hand”. Since the claim was on forest land, there were many wild animals nearby. When there was a forest fire, many of them were all around and hungry. The family provided food for them.

Jean also learned to swear at a young age when cattle from a nearby ranch had broken through a fence into the yard and into Mother’s gardens. The cowboys were using colorful language while rounding them up and Jean quickly “adopted” several of them. This was not acceptable.

Jean remembers a huge stone fireplace with a large mantel on which her father had carved “East West Hames Best” and rocking in front of the fire. Her father would carry her in his arms and dance with her and also at Christmas touching the large paper red Christmas bells (making them move). Hating castor oil and once strongly protesting to take it, choking on a slice of apple and her father holding her by her ankles and shaking her until the apple was dislodged.

When of school age, Jean moved with her parents and sister, Elizabeth Anne, to Yakima (WA) where they had cousins. Jean first attended McKinley School where she was moved up two classes but protested because she did not want to leave her classmates. The intense heat affected her Mother’s health, so they moved to Seattle with a more temperate climate. Jean graduated from St. Nicholas School (an Episcopal School when founded) in 1932 with honors in music.

On April 18, 1933, Jean married Jack Whitfield Wilkinson. They moved to White House, California in 1935 where Jack was to learn the lumber business at the McCloud River Lumber Co. Jean returned to Seattle for the birth of their daughter, Ann Alexander, on August 20. Jack was later transferred to Los Angeles (CA) in 1938 with Masonite and later to Alameda (CA). Because Jack preferred the woods end of the lumber business, they then moved to Prineville (OR) in August of 1938 to the lumber camp of Alexander – Yawkey Lumber Co. where they resided until September of 1941 when Anne was ready for school. They divorced several years later.

Jean married James Philip Gillis in Winnemucca (NV) in July of 1965; they remained in Prineville. Jim died of cancer in 1968.

Jean has been very active in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and other local organizations, first serving as Secretary of the Prineville Youth Committee. They had headquarters in several locations for the teenagers all with games, magazines, cards, and snacks. On certain Saturday evenings they held dances to recorded music. All these activities were strictly chaperoned by parents. At a later date parents lost interest and the activities were discontinued.

When visiting cousins in Toppinish (WA), a fire siren blew, it was not for a fire, but for a curfew. Jean brought the idea home to Prineville and it was soon adopted. A son of Dr. Elon Woods led a group that asked for a later hour due to the sports activities and dances on Friday night. The request was granted.

Jean also served as chairman War Bond Drive; Assistant Chief Observer of volunteers who reported any planes in the area; Red Cross Motor Corps and Crook County shipping clerk for all materials made or knitted for the war effort; charter member and secretary of the Business and Professional Women’s club; President of the Rotana Women’s service club; member of the Pink Ladies organized by St. Andrew’s Guild; President of the Ochoco Garden Club and one of the ideas of Garden of the month came from Wausau, Wisconsin; interim President and life member of the Crook Garden Club; secretary and corresponding secretary for the Crook County Genealogy Society; secretary of the Crook County Mineral Society and Prineville Camera Club; President of AARP; President of the Crook County Melrose Extension Group and President and secretary of the Extension Council; chairman for several years of the Crook County Republican Party and Precinct Committee Woman; President and Executive Secretary of the Crook County Tuberculosis and Health Association (Christmas Seals). Chaplain for the Lookout Mountain Grange for many years and received a commendation, member of the Budget Committee and Board member of the Juniper Canyon Water Control District. When Lloyd Lewis consent when he was to be the new Principal at Crooked River Elementary, they organized a public meeting to re-establish the P.T.A. which was successful. A 52 year member of the Eagles Auxiliary and served a term as secretary at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Jean has been Guild officers, the UTO (United Thank Offering) for the church and the diocese, the Altar Guild and trained new members as the Reception Chairman.

Jean is the direct descendent of Robert Burns, the Poet Laureate of Scotland and author of the song we all sing on New Year’s Eve “Auld Lang Sync”. The family came to America with William Penn. A family member was in charge of the colony when William Penn returned to England to receive the charter from King George. Jean’s family was involved in the early history of the country. Alexander Hamilton and Hu Williamson who also signed the Constitution among others. Her Quaker family is the oldest in the United States. Jonathon Evans, an ancestor, fought in the Revolutionary War and so many generations have been members of the Daughters of the Revolution as is Jean. Some counties and cities of the early years of the country have the name Williamson.

Jean’s family includes daughter: Rev. Dr. Anne and Husband Rev Dr. Donald Block; Grandchildren: Eleanore Clem and Anne Hedlund; Great Grandchildren: Lindsey, Madalin, Megan, Grace and Henry; Great Great Grandchild: Lindsey; Great Great Great Grandchild: Madden

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