April 21, 1930 - February 23, 2021
Margaret Emelyn Billings
April 21, 1930 – February 23, 2021
Margaret Emelyn Billings, 90, died peacefully February 23, 2021 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Margaret was known to many as Peg, Mom, or Ma B, but most affectionately by her grandchildren as Nani. Margaret was born April 21, 1930 to Llewellyn and Ruth Clark in Dodgeville, WI. She joined older brother William and spent her younger years on a farm outside of Cobb, WI. She was known for her blond Shirley Temple curls. Margaret attended a one room school in her elementary grades and was immensely proud to say that she actually was someone who rode her pony to school. At age 15, her father purchased a farm in Madison, WI and she moved from Cobb High School to a much larger Madison East High where she was active in cheer and basketball. A true farm girl through and through, she was an accomplished horsewoman and was active in 4H, showing her prize cows, horses and pigs.
She was naturally gifted at nurturing the sickly and “runt” animals back to health. Her kindness and love of animals, except for snakes, was notable in her adult years, as she allowed her own children to raise a variety of tame and wild critters.
After high school, Margaret began college at Whitewater State Teacher’s College (UW-Whitewater) to study early childhood education. She joined Delta Zeta Sorority and graduated in 1951 with her teaching degree.
Margaret and her husband Jim grew up together in Cobb and attended school together until his graduation. They were prom king and queen her freshman year, but did not actually begin dating until Jim was stationed in Crane, IN. In 1949, Jim counted down his last 52 days of service in the Marines by sending Margaret a note on a single card from a playing deck each day, the last being the Queen of Hearts. Jim proposed to Margaret the day he was discharged, and they were married in Cobb on June 23, 1951. They were married nearly 60 years before Jim’s passing December 2, 2010.
Margaret began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher of a class of 42 four- and five-year-old students in the Shorewood Hills area in Madison, WI. Margaret taught school as Jim completed his undergraduate studies and medical school at UW Madison. Margaret was the first teacher in the Madison area to introduce animals into the classroom as part of their curriculum. In 1956, Margaret and Jim moved to Portland OR to complete his Internship and Residency at Providence Hospital. Margaret left her teaching career behind in Wisconsin to be a homemaker and raise their four children, Jim (1956), Charles (1958), John (1960) and Ann (1962). Margaret loved teaching but treasured the role of mom and believed it to be the most important one she could fulfill. True to her character, she was “all in” as she became a long-time school volunteer, ultimate “swim team mom” and carpool queen. And when she became a Nani, nothing delighted her more. She loved having the grandkids over to their home and especially loved teaching them to bake. She was always game for an adventure and when it would snow, true to her Midwest roots, she was the first one to call and start organizing sledding runs and playtime in the snow. She was a great cheerleader for her grandkids and loved going to their various sporting and school events. True to form, she was always supportive of their many fundraisers. Her motto was simple,” Work will wait, but fun won’t”.
Margaret was a wonderful cook and baker. She hosted many parties and always had room and food for added guests, often saying,” I cook like I’m feeding thrashers”–a bit of a reference to her farming roots. She was known for her cinnamon rolls, Cornish saffron sweetbread, various breads, hot cross buns, blueberry pie and chocolate angel food cake to name a few. There were always delicious cookies in her multiple cookie jars. He contributions to potlucks were always revered and she loved exchanging recipes. She also made sure the hunters ate like kings and queens on their many trips.
In addition to her culinary skills, Margaret was quite artistic. She was an avid tole painter, furniture refinisher, quilter, and in later years she loved to embroider.
Over the years, Margaret was actively involved in neighborhood and school and community issues. She was a proud supporter and victor of “Save Glendoveer” in the ’70s and became a stakeholder in the play equipment project partnership between Portland Parks and Russell Grade School at John Luby Park. She worked diligently for the creation of the Russell Neighborhood Association and served 8 years on the Parkrose School Board (1999-2008). She was a longtime and active member of Delta Zeta Sorority and past member of WEO.
Margaret was a strong willed and opinionated woman, but to those that knew her she was wise, loving, compassionate, nurturing and loyal. She could talk to anyone and especially loved interacting with children and young adults.
She had the “gift of gab” and could spend an eternity on the phone. Margaret loved to sing and teach her grandchildren songs of her childhood. Pony Boy was one of the more memorable ones. Even as her dementia progressed, she could still hum along with the music and keep time with her feet. She was the family “photographer” and made sure that everyone had at least 2 or 3 copies of each shot. Her smile would warm your heart. Margaret’s favorite flower was the pansy, most fitting, as they signify thoughtfulness, and no one was more thoughtful than Margaret.
Margaret is survived by her sons James Jr.(Jim) of Troutdale; John (Lori) Portland; and daughter Ann (Kevin) of Portland as well as her 11 grandchildren Brian Nagle MD, Brett (Marissa) Nagle, and Margaret Nagle; Jennifer Billings, Katie ( Amber) Billings and John Billings II; Joslyn (Dan) Starr, Daniel (Bree) Billings, Derek Billings; Ashley (Tyson) Burman, and Justin (Kaylyn) Billings and 11 great grandchildren , sister in law June Nagel of Cobb and many nieces and nephews in Wisconsin and Virginia. She was predeceased by her husband Jim (2010), son Charles (2018), only brother William (2002), father (1980) and mother (1949).
Margaret’s family would like to thank her caregivers Ligia and Yana at Harmony Elder Care LLC for the kind, compassionate and expert care they provided her, as well as her hospice team at Mt. Hood Hospice, RN Ivan, Barbara, social support and Chaplain Fred Vogel for their compassionate guidance in her care.
Private interment will be held Friday, March 12 at Willamette National Cemetery. Due to Covid restrictions, a public memorial service is not planned at this time. Arrangements made by Omega Funeral and Cremation Service.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Margaret’s memory would be a lovely gesture to the Alzheimer’s Association ( act.alz.org) Click here to go to Alzheimer’s Association.