Willmeda Mathis Harris, better known as Billie, age 93, passed away peacefully at Piatt County Nursing Home, Monticello on Wednesday, May 3. 2023. Billie was born on January 5, 1930, to the late Willie Mathis and Spezzie Jackson Mathis Gulley.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM on Friday, June 2, 2023 at St. John the Divine, 1011 South Wright St., Champaign, IL. Rev. Sean Ferrell will officiate. There will be a reception for family and friends immediately following the ceremony.
She is survived by her daughter, Ellen Harris of Peoria, IL, her brother, Preston/Pat (Millie) Ransom, Champaign IL and Sarasota FL, and sister, Verdie Finney of Champaign IL, two granddaughters Cassandra Walls, Peoria IL and Nora (Clinton) Ford, Texas and 4 great grandchildren. Her family also includes niece and nephew Tricia Ransom (Jimmy Watkins) San Jose, CA and Michael Ransom, Denver CO, nieces Renee Vonney Adell, Peoria IL and Denise Gulley, Las Vas, NV and nephew Michael Sanders, Atlanta GA.
Her beloved husband, Thraceton Harris and son Mark predeceased her.
Billie grew up in Peoria IL, attended the University of Illinois where she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, graduated from Bradley University and then Washington University in St. Louis MO with a master’s degree as a social worker. She married Thraceton Harris of St. Louis and their children, Mark and Ellen, completed the family. She had a lengthy career as head of a unit in a psychiatric hospital in the St. Louis area. After Billie retired from that position, she obtained a master’s degree in fine arts from Fontonne University. She became an accomplished artist with several shows. Along the way, she also learned to play the guitar and formed a group that enjoyed playing together. While Billie was painting and making music, she was also traveling. She walked on the Great Wall of China, saw the Egyptian pyramids, visited in the Himalayas, reverently admired Machu Picchu, slept on the hillside of an active volcano, tickled the trout in England, camped out in the Grand Tetons, almost capsized during white water rafting , glided in a gondola through the canals of Venice, visited countries in Africa, ate dinner with a family in Holland, sipped wine in France, drank beer in Germany and had colorful experiences in many more countries and places. When Billie bought a condo in Sarasota FL, she was able to play tennis 6 to 7 times a week which she enjoyed immensely. She continued to play tennis past her mid- 80s. She also swam almost every morning for most of her adult life. One physician laughingly referred to her as “86 going on 68”. In 2014, she sold her St. Louis home of 50 years and moved to Champaign IL to be closer to her brother Pat and his family and she began traveling with them. She had a zest for life and experiences that never diminished. She was always ready for the next trip, dinner, or party.
In addition to various philanthropies, Billie supported feeding those in need.
If anyone is so inclined, please consider donating time, money or food to Eastern Illinois Foodbank. Billie will be buried next to her husband in St. Louis.
A message of condolence may be sent to the family by going to Billie’s obituary page on Edwards Funeral Home’s website at edwardsfh.net.